One of the fastest growing groups in our country is our veterans, and they’re also a population that is facing a high amount of challenges.
Veterans can be found at all levels of our society, from someone in Mount Vernon or elsewhere who just left active duty and is in the Reserves, to someone who has been discharged for decades and is receiving hospice care.
The staff at Above and Beyond Home Health Care also works with a wide variety of patients who are veterans, and we are always very thankful for their service, and also very happy that we’re able to return the favor and provide care for them after they helped us, whether they were in combat situations or served in other ways.
Many who were in wartime situations experienced physical and mental injuries that have lasted all of their lives. Or in some cases, their injuries weren’t particularly significant earlier in life, but as they age, the pain and discomfort may grow.
Clients may also find themselves dealing with other aspects of their service, including certain health conditions due to exposure to environmental hazards. Other conditions like post-traumatic stress disorder may not be noticed initially but also could affect them later in life.
This month is a perfect opportunity to recognize the role of veterans in our lives, whether you know or work with some directly or can help some others in your local community.
May is National Military Appreciation Month, an occasion to celebrate the role of veterans in our lives and recognize the collective accomplishments of so many in defending our country from internal or external threats.
The month-long celebration began in 1999 when Arizona Sen. John McCain introduced a bill in Congress that would bring more awareness to veteran topics and also encouraged all Americans to go out to thank any veterans in their lives.
Part of the effort to improve outreach for veterans and awareness of their needs is learning more about them, a figure that should be fairly easy to calculate but is actually a little challenging to determine.
In 2017, the Pew Research Center estimated that there were 20.4 million U.S. veterans as of the previous year, about a 10th of the country’s population.
Interestingly, the Pew Research Center does predict a general decline in this percentage. Even though there are several military engagements taking place around the world, actual numbers of active, reserve, or discharged veterans are declining. At the same time, more veterans of older wars are dying.
If this trend continues, it predicts that there will be around 12 million veterans by 2045. This reflects a lower interest in enlisting combined with the death of most Vietnam-era military by then. But even though overall numbers are declining, the types of veterans are increasing, including more women.
Time to celebrate
Along with a general appreciation of veterans in May and beyond, the month also has six prime holidays where there are opportunities to honor them in private and public ways. Some celebrations are tied into anniversaries of significant historical events; some are just chances to show respect.
- Loyalty Day May 1 starts the month off with a celebration of heritage and American freedom. This holiday was created in 1955 but was first celebrated in 1958. It always includes an official proclamation by the current U.S. president discussing the various important topics and virtues, including the value of patriotism.
- Public Service Recognition Week. This week runs May 5-11 and is designed to honor anyone who serves their fellow men and women, whether it’s through the military or in other roles, including employment as a federal, state, county or city employee. Officials from any of these groups, such as mayors or county commissioners are encouraged to create local proclamations so local individuals will feel appreciated and included in this national act. The official event site has past presidential proclamation.
- Victory in Europe Day. Although World War II officially ended in August 1945 with the surrender of Japan, the final stages of the war in Europe ended a few months earlier. The Allies succeeded in surrounding and defeating the Nazis. So their unconditional surrender on May 8, 1945, is always recognized and celebrated as V-E Day.
- Military Spouse Day. May 10 is set aside each year to honor the role of the spouse. In the past, married members of the all-male army relied on their wives for a great deal of support. But as more women began joining the military in various capacities, their husbands are also celebrated. The spouse’s role can vary depending on posting, rank, and role, but he or she generally can help spread awareness, assist during deployments, and keep hopes high.
- Armed Forces Day. Whatever branch of the service someone is in or when they served, they are all appreciated on May 18 every year. Some communities include local tributes or honors this day for any active, reserve or veterans living nearby.
- Memorial Day. The last Monday of May, which is May 27 in 2019, now pays tribute to any members of the military who has given their lives for their country. This celebration often includes celebrations at area cemeteries.