Today is day one of the United States of America, not being at war in Iraq. Yesterday passed without very much fanfare. The majority of the news coverage seemed to me about how little fanfare there really was. There are estimates that the cost of the war is anywhere from $823 billion to upwards of $3 trillion when you factor in the healthcare and needs of veterans and their families. I’m not sure about either of those two numbers, but I do hope that there is enough funding over the next 70-80 years to make sure that the men and women, and their families, who fought in this most recent of wars, are taken care of for the sacrifices they made on behalf of our great country.
I’d be interested to know how much money we could save on health care for our veterans (and me) if we could get all of our veterans and their families outside and breathing fresh air, fly casting for brook trout, climbing mountains, floating down rivers, surfing our beaches, or trekking across the desert. My guess is there would be significant offsets and we’d have a happier, healthier nation after nine years of war in Iraq.
MountainMan Coffee posted this on Faecbook last night:
Though politicians can sign a piece of paper and pronounce that the ‘war’ is over, all those who participated, deployed, sacrificed and waited for their loved ones to come back…it will never be over for them; for it impacted their lives and changed them forever. I pray that they can come home or continue their life with peace and rest in the understanding that they impacted my life and all of those of the American, Iraqi, Afghani, and the global population in volunteering to be our heroes and heroines in a time of need! God bless them and their families and God bless America!
Now, we as a total Nation, need to step up and extend our hands to our military families and veterans to help them do the things MountanMan Coffee hopes our returning men and women can do: to come home, to live a life with peace and rest. And while there are no ticker tape parades in our major cities, no ship loads of troops coming home to legions of cheering citizens, I think we’re all right with that. The audacious shows of support and cosmetic ‘thank yous’ of free food and oil changes on a few days of the year are nice, but they are not the only, or always the appropriate response to our returning veterans.
We are not, as a veteran community, looking for charity. We are, however, looking for an opportunity, a hand up versus a hand out, and an equal playing field when we come back home. What that means in the context of my work, ensuring that our veterans and military families experience the freedom of the land they defended, and beyond that, making sure all of America is connected to the great outdoors, is that we have a moral obligation to our veterans, to ensure there is a field to play in.
Another facebooker wrote, “Think what you will about the politics of our involvement, nothing can diminish the esteem I have for those who honorably served us.” If asked point blank, most Americans I believe would agree with both Facebook posts, but how to turn that belief, that esteem, into action? Get involved. Volunteer with your local Sierra Club chapter to get out and take a hike, help rebuild a trail, clean up a riverbed and before you go, invite the local VFW or American Legion Post. Swing by the VA and ask to speak to the volunteer coordinator and see about getting a group of veterans out on a hike with you. Call up your local Fisher House and see if you cannot bring out the kids whose mothers and fathers are at the Fisher House on a hike with your ICO group. Need more ideas? Keep reading this blog, or visit other partner organizations like the USO, IAVA, AmpSurf, the Wounded Warrior Project, Higher Ground, Veterans Expeditions, Paradox Sports, National Military Families Association, Big City Mountaineers, Blue Star Families, Armed Services YMCA, Warriorgateway.org, Phoenix Multi-Sport, the list goes on.
So show your local veterans what you know about America’s great outdoors. Give us an opportunity to learn, to teach you what we've learned, to serve, and ultimately to lead again. That’s how you can really say thank you.
~Stacy Bare, OIF Veteran
Military Families and Veteran Representative to the Sierra Club
"Helping America's Military and Veteran Community experience the freedom of the land they defend"