The debt we refuse to pay

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You might be preparing for church, a family barbecue, maybe a date with a famous car race today.

Good things all.

We hope you’re also preparing for tomorrow, as solemn an occasion as there is in our nation. Tomorrow is Memorial Day. Yes, it’s a day to pay our respects, as Americans united, for the men and women in our armed services who made the ultimate sacrifice so we could go to church, enjoy family barbecues and watch the Indy 500.

And how are we doing in paying our respects? In North Idaho, much better than most parts of the country because of the number of veterans who chose to make this their home. Yet while we’re thinking of those who died so we could live, there’s this uncomfortable little truth looming over our country. It is, what are we doing to show our respect for the members of our military who have survived?

In many cases, the answer is simply, Not enough.

Not nearly enough.

According to a National Institutes of Health report published last August — https://bit.ly/2ICtrY — more than 1.5 million of the 5.5 million veterans seen in VA hospitals in 2016 had a mental health diagnosis. That’s a 31 percent increase since 2004, attributed at least in part to the changing nature of warfare and its severe impact on veterans trying to adjust once they come home.

On any given night, the report says, 107,000 veterans are homeless. On average, at least 21 veterans a day take their life.

You can do excellent work like the annual Stand Down in Post Falls, which attracted about 500 veterans and their friends and family on May 12, including an 88-year-old Korean War vet. St. Vincent de Paul, bless them, provides shelter during cold nights for veterans and others. But when you look at the enormity of what our veterans have done against the paucity of what we in turn do for them, it’s more than unfair. It’s a national disgrace.

Those who gave their lives for this nation are heroes, one and all. In a sense, though, maybe they’re the lucky ones. At least their nightmares are over.

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