Dear JFS Friends, Supporters, and Collaborative Partners,
Huzzah (the term from the U.S. Navy days of old, meaning greetings)!
I hope this message finds you and your families in good health.
Veterans Day, also known as Armistice Day, was officially created in commemoration of Nov. 11, 1918, when after more than four years of horrific fighting and the loss of millions of lives, the guns on the Western Front in Europe fell silent. While World War I officially ended on June 28, 1919 with the signing of the Treaty of Versailles, the armistice that went into effect at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month of 1918 is generally regarded as the end of the “war to end all wars.” The significance of Veterans Day has since expanded to honor and celebrate all America’s Veterans “for their patriotism, love of country, and willingness to serve and sacrifice for the common good.” (U.S. Dept. of Veterans Affairs)
Long before WWI, Massachusetts was the home of our country’s first Veterans- citizen soldiers/minutemen – immortalized by the phrase “The Shot Heard Round the World,” referencing the opening shot of the battles of Lexington and Concord on April 19, 1775, igniting the American Revolutionary War that led to the creation of the United States of America. America owes its very existence to Veterans.
Sadly, this Veterans Day, the ongoing fighting in Israel and continued conflict in Ukraine cast a very dark and somber shadow upon what should be a celebratory tribute to the promised end of wars and to those who have fought to achieve peace. Even as I begin writing this Veterans Day message, I am reflecting upon the many wars our country fought during my service in the Navy from 1984 to 2008.
– Persian Gulf War (1991): The war was waged against Iraq by a U.N.-authorized coalition force from 34 nations, led by Britain and the U.S. You, no doubt, recall the operational names including Operation Desert Shield, Operation Desert Storm, and Operation Desert Saber. I was in the Mediterranean, off the coast of Cyprus, providing support to counter Saddam Hussein’s barge of scuds missiles into Israel.
– The Bosnian/Yugoslav War (1992-1995): I spent time off the coast with NATO forces providing weapons embargo enforcement.
– When our country was attacked on Sept 11th, 2001 (we all know where we were at that moment and what that felt like), we were determined to take down the murdering Al-Qaida organization. This initiated many conflicts to accomplish this mission:
- The War in Afghanistan-Operation Enduring Freedom (October, 2001 – December, 2014): This marked the start of our Global War on Terror. On May 2, 2011 a special operations unit located, raided and killed Osama Bin Laden. Security Forces in Afghanistan then continued through the U.S.’ recent evacuation in August of 2021.
- And of course, the extended War in Iraq-Op Iraqi Freedom (March 2003 – November 2011), culminating in the extermination of Saddam Hussein and a new democratic Iraqi government.
Whether someone has been a Soldier/Marine/SEAL on the ground or supporting forces from the air or sea, there is universal agreement that “War is Hell.” How else should we describe the enormity of loss of life and of debilitating injury suffered by military personnel and innocent civilians and the accompanying grief of their loved ones? According to the Watson Institute in International Public Affairs, at Brown University, over 7,000 U.S. service members, over 8,000 U.S. contractors and more than 177,000 U.S. coalition partners were killed in Post 9-11 combat operations. The concomitant civilian loss was over 430,000. This does not include the tragic, hidden loss to suicide of Veterans and service members who served in these combat operations – unconscionably, some 30,000 to date.
The prevalence of mental illness among Veterans is higher than the national average: just over 25%, or 1 in 4, Veterans struggle with mental illness, as opposed to the national average of 1 in 5. Veterans also have a suicide rate more than 57% higher than non-Veterans. The last 3 decades of war have taken a toll on our Veterans and their families.
Our Veterans are owed our assurance that their critical needs will be met by a society that acknowledges and appreciates the sacrifices they have made in the quest for justice and for peace. As a Board Member, I am truly proud of the work of the Veterans Collaborative. The Collaborative strives to gather service providers in the Veteran space to work, in unison, to address the needs, particularly behavioral/mental health needs, of Veterans and their families. I have seen the incalculable value of this supportive Veteran community and accessible, coordinated services to struggling Veterans and families.
A shout out to Brothers For Life (The Israeli Wounded Warrior Program), an organization with which I have been involved for years, connecting Israeli and US Wounded Warriors here locally. They have been doing so much work in the area of mental health. Their work has never been as timely or important as it is now!
I also currently sit on a steering committee with Combined Jewish Philanthropies and other partner agencies, actively dedicated to expanding and facilitating access to community mental health services, supporting caregivers and providing advocacy. However, more is needed to reach our brothers and sisters-in-arms who remain vulnerable and at-risk. We, as a society, must do better; we must be willing to search for and/or to create innovative approaches and interventions when existing resources and models of intervention prove inadequate or inaccessible.
My call to action to all of us this Veterans Day is that you please reach out to a Veteran and/or Veteran family to extend your thanks for their service and sacrifice and to check in on how things are going. If help is needed, encourage reaching out to the Veterans Collaborative, to any area service network agency, or to me, personally.
Thanks to all of you who have served and thank you for the commitment of your families, as well. We Veterans know we could not have served without the support of our families and of our communities.
Wishing you a meaningful Veterans Day Weekend! To a permanent peace!
CEO and U.S. Navy Veteran