Vice President Pence told West Point’s graduating officers to be prepared for combat, because they’re sure to go there. Our guess is the grads were already aware of that fact, and are ready.
But it’s what comes after combat that can be a problem. Pence’s speech came during the long Memorial Day weekend, a national holiday that honors America’s fallen warriors.
There are several days throughout each year on which military men and women are honored, but none more solemn than Memorial Day. These singular events are important for America and Americans, but unfortunately, so many of the other days of the year aren’t so special for military veterans.
The personal website WalletHub has crunched the numbers to tell us the best and worst places for veterans, and the survey results for California are discouraging.
For example, on a scale of 1 to 51 — with 1 being the best state and 51 being the worst — California ranks 48th in both the number of veterans per capita and percentage of homeless veterans.
It gets worse. We are 49th when it comes to the percentage of veteran-owned businesses, and last when it comes to housing affordability. No surprise in that housing statistic. A high percentage of California residents cannot afford the median-priced home, and likely will never be able to afford one.
WalletHub’s conclusions are not all bleak for California veterans. This state is fifth-best overall regarding the number of Veterans Administration offices per veteran, and third-best when it comes to the total number of VA health facilities per veteran. California is a so-so 12th-best when it comes to job opportunities for veterans.
With nearly 100 former military now serving in Congress, you’d think veterans would get more attention from our elected leaders, especially considering that more than 45 million Americans have served this country in wartime, and 15 million of those veterans are alive today. And despite significant steps to improve the federal government’s efforts to help veterans, too many remain on our streets, sleeping under bushes — and still, in their minds, fighting wars that ended decades ago.
While there were solemn ceremonies at military cemeteries nationwide last weekend, it was generally a blowout party for most Americans, their fun boosting the U.S. economy, as does just about every national holiday. Our roads and skies were full of holiday travelers, and on average the three-day Memorial Day weekend claims nearly 400 lives in traffic accidents, with another 45,000 or so injured.
It is important for Americans to relax and enjoy themselves, but that is a luxury too many of our men and women veterans cannot enjoy, their minds and bodies scarred by wars and regional conflicts.
As Vice President Pence told the graduating cadets, they can expect to encounter such conflicts. It’s almost a sure thing.
All of which underlines the necessity for our elected leaders to pay closer attention to the real costs of war, to the men and women on the front lines, doing their duty, sometimes paying the ultimate price.
Memorial Day is truly special, but every day is special for our military veterans — and cruel for far too many of those former soldiers. The thing about combat is that, for some, it never really ends. It’s there, in your head, and it never leaves.
We write about this often — our debt to military veterans, and how that debt too often goes unpaid — because many veterans call the Central Coast home, and their needs are not always being met.