What Do Veterans Need?


We will be celebrating Veterans Day this coming week and again the country will have the opportunity to show its appreciation for the sacrifices that Veterans have made to protect our nation and freedom.

Amidst the celebration, one may wonder what do Veterans really want from our society?   There are 16.5 million Veterans in the U.S.; 1,435,787 of those Veterans reside here in Texas

The population of those who are currently serving and have served vary across race, gender, sexual orientation, religious and political affiliation.

The common commitment among a lot of Veterans is that you fight in order to protect each other.

This truth has stayed with me in over the 35-year period that I have worked with Military and Veteran personnel and their families.

Fifty-four years ago my cousin PFC Richard Gullixson Jr. (Ritchie) was deployed to Vietnam. He was a paratrooper. During November 1968, right after the TET Offensive, he made his first jump, at night, over South Vietnam. He unfortunately never survived. He was 20 and his body was found hanging in a tree by the cords of the parachute. He was 20, I was 15. His death very affected me.

I completed a 28-year military career, 17.5 years serving as a Navy Chaplain representing my church, The United Church of Christ, and 11.5 years serving as a Medical Service Corps Officer in the Army as a Social Worker. I retired in 2013 as a Lieutenant Colonel (O-5).

Several years ago, I was at Atlanta Hartsfield Airport. I was traveling to present at a mental health conference. I was in my then ACU Uniform and I was standing in the food court contemplating what to order to eat. I had a long flight ahead to the Western United States.

All of a sudden, a nicely dressed businessman came up and handed me a twenty-dollar bill and said “Thank You.  This is on me.” I profusely thanked him for his generosity. I certainly could have afforded lunch, but the man’s gesture was very special.

When I’m working with Veterans, I often think of Ritchie. I am 69 now, he would now be 74.  What would he think now regarding the status of Veterans? Since his time, we have had Grenada, Panama, El Salvador, Columbia, larger military operations like Operation Desert Storm, Desert Shield, Bosnia, Somalia and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

We have seen military personnel fight valiantly on the frontlines, dedicated military medical and mental health personnel take care of troops and their families and military chaplains minister to the troops and family members regarding spiritual needs, morale, support etc.

What Veterans need, I believe, is affirmation and validation for their service, despite whatever political beliefs one may hold. They don’t need  in the words of The Beatles

 “Hey Bungalow Bill, what did you kill? What did you kill? “

That is demeaning, demoralizing, and invalidating to the ears of a Veteran.

Instead, it’s more appropriate and welcoming if you say.

 “I’m glad that you are here.  I care about you. If you want to talk about anything, I am here to listen. “

Better yet, there needs to be more legislation and support for the future medical and mental health care for Veterans. We have the Center for Deployment Psychology and the Strong Star program.

But we will need more resources to take care of Veterans and their families in the future.

 Many medical and mental health clinicians are retiring.

Who will be coming up from behind, to provide cover, to continue this important and sacred work? Veterans want to know if we will be there for them.

I pray that we will be there for them and for each other.

May it be do.

Rev. Peter E. Bauer is a United Church of Christ minister. He is the Interim Minister for First Christian Church here in Lockhart. Everyone is welcome to First Christian Church for worship each Sunday at 10:45 a.m., Sunday School meets at 9:30 a.m. Rev. Bauer has been a regular contributor to the Huffington Post and Medium.Com.


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