Sharon Quirk-Silva Offers Veteran’s Day Thoughts

Washington Crossing National Cemetery

Washington Crossing National Cemetery

Veteran’s Day honors the brave men and women who have made significant personal sacrifices, and sometimes the ultimate sacrifice, to keep our country and its ideals safe. We honor them and thank them for their service.  

Veteran’s Day celebrations tend to summon within us patriotic pride, gratitude and a sense of duty toward our veterans. But, taking a hard look at ourselves how much do we commit to them the rest of the year? When the parades are over and the bands have played, many veterans return to a reality where they are disproportionately struggling to find jobs, receive less than adequate healthcare, and confront issues that contribute to homelessness. 

On this day, let’s sound a call for fulfilling our commitments to veterans and ensure that their sacrifices are truly honored. To paraphrase the poet Dylan Thomas it is our duty to make sure their service and our gratitude “do not go gentle into that good night.”  

The dying of that light would deny them better job training, access to colleges, top-quality healthcare, and help getting off the streets, among other things. 

What can be done? Beyond volunteering our time or giving money, we can expect, and call on, our leaders to deliver services veterans can really use without bureaucracy getting in the way.  

That includes calling for colleges to have more dedicated transitional support services to aid student veterans. Studies show a proper support system helps veterans adjust to civilian life and greatly increases graduation rates.  

Our local, state and federal agencies have invested significant resources trying to get homeless vets off the streets. Though they’ve shown some progress, much more needs to be done. A recent study by the University of Southern California Center for Innovation and Research on Veterans & Military Families found there are 34,000 women veterans estimated to be living on our streets. They propose that progress can be made through early intervention, additional healthcare and childcare for their children, increasing eligibility for access to services, and increase awareness that homeless women veterans are out there and need our help. 

Assemblywoman Sharon Quirk-Silva and American Legion Chaplain Bill Cook at the Assembly Veterans Affairs Committee hearing on Tuesday April 29th, 2014

Assemblywoman Sharon Quirk-Silva and American Legion Chaplain Bill Cook at the Assembly Veterans Affairs Committee hearing on Tuesday April 29th, 2014

Speaking more generally, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs continues to fail on healthcare, particularly mental health services at a time where over 250,000 recently returning veterans are suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Now, before our departures from Iraq and Afghanistan fade from our collective civilian memory, is the time to ensure funding and staffing at VA facilities is there to support veterans for the long haul journey that their injuries necessitate. Let your elected representatives know you support better, more efficient veteran healthcare.  

As chair of the California State Assembly Committee on Veterans Affairs, I was proud to write the law dedicating a portion of the shuttered Marine Corps Air Station El Toro for a new veteran’s cemetery, which is now moving forward. It was past time for locating a new sacred resting place to honor the brave people who risked so much. 

Now, it’s past time to honor the living by pushing for better and sustained assistance to help them re-enter civilian life and flourish. Let’s use this day to rededicate ourselves to our veterans today, tomorrow, and every day.