Thank You, Veterans!
In the news last week, you may have seen that 50 North Coast veterans who served in World War II or the Korean War traveled to Washington D.C. to visit the memorials created in their honor (and to honor the service of countless other veterans who participated in these horrific events).
The non-profit organization North Coast Honor Flight was created to pay tribute to these veterans; to show local veterans that their efforts have not been forgotten.
To make this latest Washington D.C. trip happen, the South Ukiah Rotary Club teamed up with North Coast Honor Flight to help fund the trip. Rotarian Jacqueline Bradley and a host of others worked tirelessly to acquire donated roundtrip airline tickets from Southwest Airlines and raise more than $25,000 dollars to make this trip a reality. Many other volunteers acted as guardians for the trip, each paying their own way to assist and guide our veterans to and from Washington.
One of the unique parts of the trip included letters from friends and family members. Veterans received the letters on their way to our nation’s capital. Jacqueline said that you wouldn’t think the mail call would be that big of a deal, but it meant so much to all the guys – there wasn’t a dry eye in the group.
Jacqueline said, “Many of the veterans heard from people who they haven't been in contact with in years. Then, of course, there were the handmade pictures and cards from grade school classes and girl scouts and community members.”
One veteran was crying during mail call and Jacqueline asked what was wrong. She explained, “He said he had served in the Pacific for four years and he quit going to mail call because he never got a letter. Sitting on his lap was a large white envelope with at least 20 cards and letters. He said he was too emotional to read them until he got home.”
While the awards, medals, and memorials in their honor mean a lot to our veterans, I think it is these letters, and the caring people who go out of their way to thank and honor our veterans, that really make a difference in the lives of our veterans.
I really believe it is our personal gratitude that matters most. Along with thanking our veterans, we must also do all we can to care for them, for they have experienced more than we will ever understand.
Recently, President Obama awarded Staff Sergeant Carter our nation’s highest honor: the Medal of Honor. After receiving this award, Staff Sgt. Carter said, “The reality of the award is that I wouldn’t wish it on anybody. Imagine yourself in the worst possible situation you can think of. We’re talking about you’ve got members of your family being killed in front of you or in severe pain and you have no choice but to try and help them.”
After that horrific battle, Carter began receiving treatment for Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
"I don't like the 'D' on the end," Carter said. "I don't believe in calling it a disorder. I believe that it's your body and mind's natural reaction to something traumatic… and if PT, post-traumatic stress is intense enough, it will affect your life. It will remove your ability to be happy and enjoy the company of your loved ones."
"Everyone who cares for you and worries about you in your life is your safety net," Carter continued. "At any point in time if I'm feeling stressed or if something is going wrong, I have people I can talk to."
Hundreds of thousands of our veterans, home from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, have returned suffering from PTSD. Far too often they come home and find their spouses and children suffering as well.
One organization committed to helping veterans with PTSD is Welcome Back Veterans (WBV). WBV was created to inspire Americans to reach out and help our returning veterans and their families. These heroes served us all and kept us safe, and now it is our turn to be there for them.
At their website, www.welcomebackveterans.org, people can learn more about how to help. The goal is to transform the lives of our returning veterans by providing on-going treatment to them and their families for any PTSD-related issues they may have.
The Department of Veterans Affairs Veterans Crisis Line is another source of help that connects veterans in crisis and their families and friends with responders through a confidential toll-free hotline, online chat, or text. Veterans and their loved ones can call 1-800-273-8255 and press 1, chat online, or send a text message to 838255 to receive confidential support 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.
If you are a veteran who is homeless or at risk of becoming homeless, you can contact the National Veterans Administration (VA) Call Center anytime day or night at 1-877-424-3838 (also intended for veterans’ families, VA Medical Centers, federal, state and local partners, community agencies, service providers and others in the community). You can also chat live online 24/7 through the Homeless Veterans Chat service.
The Veterans Crisis Line can be accessed on the web at http://veteranscrisisline.net.
Here in Ukiah, another excellent resource for veterans is the VA Clinic at 630 Kings Court in Ukiah. The staff encourages veterans returning home from military service to visit the center and enroll, even if they don’t currently need services.
The Ukiah VA Clinic provides primary health care to more than 3,200 veterans a year, and behavioral health/PTSD care to approximately 900 veterans a year. The clinic also provides daily transportation to the VA Hospital in San Francisco where veterans can receive more specialized care. For chronically homeless veterans, the Ukiah VA Clinic helps connect them with housing and other services, as well as substance abuse treatment programs when necessary.
Today, more than a million men and women – including some our community’s best – are serving in our armed forces. Millions more have served our country in the past with distinction and honor. These brave men and women have put their lives on the line so that we may freely enjoy ours.
I am very proud to live in a community where we have organizations like South Ukiah Rotary and others that give so much to veterans. I can’t think of a more selfless gift than to safeguard our country with military service.
This coming Monday, November 11, I encourage you to find a way to thank the heroes who have given us the precious gift of freedom. Our veterans deserve a thank you, a hand shake, or letter of gratitude for their service.
To all our armed service heroes – Army, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard and Marines – thank you for your service. You have given us a gift we can never repay.
Happy Birthday, Marines – Semper Fi.
As always, our department’s mission is simple: to make Ukiah as safe as possible. If you have any suggestions or comments about how we can improve, please feel free to call me, complete our online survey, or leave a crime tip on our website: www.ukiahpolice.com.