Veterans: the nation’s forgotten heroes

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Veterans: the nation’s forgotten heroes
Sen. Roland Burris, Dem-Ill., discussed the GI Bill’s flaws with the Senate on Wednesday, April 21, 2010 (Natalie Bailey/Medill News Service/MCT).

By NATE NGUYEN
Staff Writer

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there are currently over 21.2 million veterans who have served our country, and 1,264,000 American soldiers have sacrificed their lives in battle. Imagine how many families of fallen soldiers are suffering because of the loss of their loved ones. Many of us may not agree with our government’s intentions when it comes to foreign wars, but our soldiers are the men and women who put their lives on the line just so that we can live comfortably. Our government should support our veterans by giving them more financial aid and more educational opportunities, while also stressing to the public the significance of what veterans have been through and the amount of respect that they deserve.

Many veterans face a variety of hardships. According to the American Community Survey, the average income of those who serve in the military is $36,264, which is below the $51,000 that the Census Bureau identifies as the average household income. Veterans spend countless hours at work, sometimes months at a time, not even being able to see their families at all for a pay grade that is way below the average. Many of us can see our loved ones at the end of the day, while military families pray each day wondering if they will see their loved ones ever again.

With that being said, veterans do not receive much respect for their dangerous, lonely work. Veterans Day is not a day off for “National BBQ Day,” even though some people treat it as any other random holiday. It is a day in which we should recognize our veterans and tell them how much we appreciate their service.

President Barack Obama has taken steps to give veterans the respect that they deserve by signing the Post-9/11 GI Bill into law, but even that law is not enough.  According to the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs, the GI Bill covered the entire cost of in-state public school tuition but only covered up to $19,198.31 per academic year for private schools during the 2013-2014 school year.  Many veterans had to readjust their schedules or take up extra jobs to pay for the remaining debt, which is a large issue because 49,993 veterans are homeless, according to the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans.

It seems as if Congress sends our loved ones to war yet does not have the decency to care for them when they return home. The veterans are the ones who put their lives on the line for this country, not the ones sitting with their families safely and comfortably at home. We should be thanking our veterans for keeping us safe by not leaving them impoverished, homeless and disrespected.

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