General Colin Powell may have been retired for 22 years, but he still understand the life of a soldier. Who better to talk to on Veteran’s Day when we celebrate the accomplishments and sacrifices our our men and women in uniform.
“It’s very moving for the nation to pause on Veteran’s Day and pay tribute to the veterans not just of today but of yesteryear. Also, it’s important that we remember the families. It’s the wives and husbands and children of veterans – servicemen and women who are away. They sacrifice and the tension on them is extremely difficult.
“With respect to the Veteran’s Administration there have been some conflicts and they are well recorded and I think the current Secretary is doing a good job of going after these. But we should not overlook that the Veteran’s Administration and its hospital system does great work taking care of our veterans. Notwithstanding the faults that have been discovered, I would say for the most part they are providing good quality service to our veterans.
They have done a tremendous job in improving the hospital system over the years. But you can never rest. You always have to be on the lookout. In this case, I think there were things that were not done well, and they were not identified or not surfaced to a higher level to be worked on. I think the new Secretary seems to be off to a good star in dealing with these problems. There’s a lot of reporting in the paper this morning about the thing’s he’s doing to reorganize the system to make sure this doesn’t happen again.”
Powell says that despite the U.S. being involved in several overseas engagements and a constant threat of war, that recruitment is still hitting the targeted quotas.
“Young men an women are still stepping forward to serve the country. They do it because they believe in the country and believe in what we’re doing. The main thing that bonds them together is their respect for each other and their determination not to let their buddies down. There is that buddy bond that is most important. That still exists and as you can see in Iraq and Afghanistan and places that don’t get as much attention as Iraq and Afghanistan, the United States military still does well.
We are still the best and the strongest in the world and will remain that way as it enjoys the support of the American people.”
Powell hopes that Veteran’s Day and the holiday season are not just times for people to exploit veterans during sales and celebrations but a time that people will actually reach out to and take time to appreciate their contributions.
“We don’t think that Veteran’s Day is the time to shop. We think its important during this holiday time to take a pause to thank these young men and women and their families to thank them for what they have done. Reach out to the older veterans. I’m watching as the World War 2 generation passes through. There aren’t many of them left. They come down to the World War II memorial in Washington and I try to come and talk to them. I see them in wheelchairs and there are fewer and fewer of them. Even my generation is starting to pass on. Many of my buddies who survived Vietnam are now moving into the next phase of life which is death. You miss them and you remember the times you served together but that’s what life is all about.”
Even if you don’t serve and are not part of a military family – and less than 10% of Americans are, you can still be supportive of veteran’s and veteran causes, Powell says.
“Many programs are out there that are there to help veterans and if you see one of those, make a donation. If you see a veteran just say ‘Thanks’ but don’t overdo it. Some veterans feel patronized. There is the impression that everyone came home with PTSD or suicidal thoughts. Some did and we need to help those who did. But the majority of our veterans just came home and went back into life just as they did after World War II and other conflicts and they just need a ‘thank you.”
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