Today's observance was intended not to glorify war, but as a solemn way to recognize its end. In that spirit, today I continue my commitment to advocate for a peaceful resolution to end the war in Iraq, and prevent war with Iran. We do not need more veterans. Instead, we need to honor those we have by fully funding services designed to meet the challenging and diverse needs of the men and women who have served in our military.
We can say 'thank you' with the immediate elimination of waiting lists for care and benefits.
We can say 'thank you' by ensuring that the mental health needs of returning soldiers are considered a medical priority and providing the adequately trained staff in sufficient numbers so as to guarantee that every solider receives the best standard of care possible.
We can say 'thank you' by the immediate elimination of pay and benefit inequities between U.S. military personnel and private paramilitary contractors who often perform the same work, in the same situations, for a fraction of the compensation. Those who wear our uniform deserve more pay, not less.
We can say 'thank you' by keeping our recruiting promises to help pay for college in a realistic and meaningful way that accurately compensates veterans for the true costs of higher education.
We can say 'thank you' by encouraging a real national conversation about the toll of war on the future of this country, not just in dollars and cents, but in the loss of production and innovation that will come as a direct result of the permanent disabilities of our wounded.
We can say 'thank you' by redefining what support means. Forget the rhetoric. It isn't about showing respect to the flag and it isn't about whether you wear a lapel pin. It isn't about a 99 cent magnet flung on the back of some car. This is what true support would look like: not one homeless veteran. Not one.
We can say 'thank you' by working as a nation to eliminate the stigma associated with PTSD, depression, and other identifiable and treatable mental health issues so as to eliminate this debilitating barrier to service provision.
We can say 'thank you' by finally ending the flawed 'don't ask, don't tell' policy. We must bring honor to all our veterans by allowing them the respect and dignity they deserve. Sexual orientation has nothing to do with patriotism or the ability to do one's job. Existing benefits and supportive services must be extended to the families of LGBT military personnel and they must be permitted to serve openly without fear of discrimination or harassment.
We can say 'thank you' by praying for peace.