Our Post-9/11 Vets: Primed for Greatness

Veteran with daughter

I am always touched when I see a military officer recognize the very real challenges that veterans face when they come home. So, when I came across this article by Colonel David W. Sutherland, co-founder and chief strategist for Easter Seals Dixon Center for Military and Veterans Services, it instantly caught my eye – and touched my heart. Here are some highlights from his recent Huffington Post blog.

More than 2.7 million Afghanistan and Iraq veterans have served our country in the past 13 years. By the end of this year, all but 9,800 of them will have left Afghanistan. Now we must identify the tipping point to ensure these heroes can succeed where they live.

As the Brigade Commander in the volatile Diyala Province for 15 months in 2006-2007, he watched his troops carry out remarkable feats of bravery and perform selfless acts of courage. They demonstrated all the qualities one could want in the toughest of situations – smarts, guts and compassion.

He worries that our vision for veterans and their families is not 20/20. In fact, he’s concerned that we do not have a vision for their future five or ten years down the road. This disconnect will grow stronger when America is no longer considered “at war.” To paraphrase the Center for a New American Security (CNAS), the sea of goodwill will turn into an ocean of apathy.

This is truly unfortunate because these young men and women embody the best of their generation. They personify the new, truly global community with world views on politics and religion that are drawn from first-hand experience. Their skills in science, technology and medicine, learned on the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan, have impacted everyone from the Boston Marathon bomb victims, who benefitted from new emergency medicine techniques to multiple criminal investigations using satellite and drone search techniques.

Our veterans are not different. They are not damaged. They simply need the same access to the key elements all Americans need to ensure a sustainable life:

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