There is a lot going on in our Tri-Lakes communities to address the needs of our men and women veterans, those currently serving and their families. The nature of today's military, being entirely a voluntary armed services, has drastically changed the responsibility of our National Guard and Reserve units of the various branches of our military. This has brought about a change in the challenges they and their families are facing and a VA system that must adapt to these changes and address them in a timely and effective manner.
During the years of the Selective Service system (draft), while you were in the States you might be able to take a furlough. You accumulated 30 days a year to be used if and when you could be released. Many of those who shipped out to the Pacific or European theaters of operation during World War II were there for the duration of the struggle. A given enlistment of two, three or four years might well be extended for the duration of the conflict and six months, at the convenience of the government. Furloughs, if at all, were few and far between for those in combat.
When the war was over, our military men and women returned to a grateful nation and communities throughout the country. The same was true of the Korean War. Families, throughout the conflicts, supported each other, and when their men and women returned, they were reintegrated into jobs, schools and the various careers of their choice. For the most part, they were not subjected to multiple tours in combat zones and numerous reintegrations to occupations, family life and social functions, as well as education and job training.
However, this was to change after WWII and Korea. The treatment of our men and women while in Vietnam and when returning home was, to say the least, disgraceful. The very nation they were sent into "harm's way" to represent, and many of its people, were turning against them while there and upon their return home. While many would like to forget those years, we must remember them and make sure that it does not happen again. Those men and women as well as those serving today deserve the undying support of the country they represent and its citizens. If one disagrees with a given conflict our nation is involved in, let the decision makers who sent them there be the object of their wrath, not those who suffered and served, as well as those who made the supreme sacrifice and were, at times, the object of demonstrations at their funerals.
Today's military and their families are faced with all the problems of the past being multiplied and some new challenges brought on largely by the termination of the draft and thus an aII-volunteer military force. The various reserve units together with the National Guard compose a large portion of our combat forces. As a result, multiple tours of the various units into areas of combat have become the rule rather than the exception. For these men and women and their families, this means the stress and related problems of leaving family and jobs, and reintegrating with families, jobs and communities multiple times results in increased stress levels and associated problems. Also, the nature of today's conflicts, often taking place in populated areas, among men, women and children of aII ages, in close proximity and quite often involved, compounds the problems associated with combat. Largely because of these increased deployments and related stressors, our military personnel and their families suffer increased rates of divorce, suicide, spousal abuse, child neglect and depression, as well as drug and alcohol abuse. According to a Rand report, almost 40 percent of our current service men and women coming back from Iraq and Afghanistan super from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), traumatic brain injury (TBI) or some other form of mental, emotional or psychological damage.
Veterans, as well as active-duty soldiers, sailors and airmen, are having increased difficulty with assimilation back into mainstream culture. The average American citizens and communities are often unaware of those serving from their neighborhoods or the stressors involved. Our Saranac Lake area (Tri-Lakes) is unique in providing a caring and comforting community environment to address those needs.
Over the years, countless numbers of people have come to this area realizing what a nurturing, natural rehabilitating gem was here, cradled in the beautiful Adirondacks. AII the beauty in the world, however, only achieves its potential when combined with caring, resourceful people. The mountains, lakes, streams and forest, and summer and winter sports, all lend themselves to creating a healing Mecca for our men and women veterans and their families.
"A broad-based coalition of community leaders and veteran advocates are working together to bring a first-of-its-kind retreat and residence facility for veterans, active military personnel and their families to this village," began the lead Enterprise article on April 15. Yes, working together, Patriot Hills of Saranac Lake will become a reality. Our veterans and their families deserve it, and our Tri-Lakes community deserves it.
Memorial Day 2010
While we should appreciate and support our men and women who have served and are serving each and every day, Memorial Day is a public display of remembrance for those who made the supreme sacrifice in protecting our freedoms and "our way of life." On May 31, Memorial Day 2010, the Tri-Lakes area will witness numerous public recognitions of those sacrifices.
Our Saranac Lake ceremony will begin (weather permitting) at 11 a.m. with a parade forming at the Veteran's Memorial Association at 202 Broadway and proceeding to Riverside Park. Services will be conducted at the band shell. In the rare case of inclement weather, the services will take place in the Harrietstown Town Hall. This year's speakers will highlight the progress in establishing Patriot Hills of Saranac Lake. When completed, this will be a personification of our Veterans of Foreign Wars motto: "We honor the dead by caring for the living."
Following the ceremony, aII are invited to please join with us at the Veterans' Club and enjoy the food and hospitality of our organizations - the VFW, the American Legion, the Sons of the Legion and our Ladies Auxiliary - who host the community on this special day.
Frank Karl lives in Onchiota and is the senior vice president and adjutant of the VFW Post 3357 in Saranac Lake.