On Veterans Day remember that many of those who have...

On Veterans Day remember that many of those who have served our nation in uniform are struggling, and we can't ignore their problems. Credit: Getty Images/rterry126

The parades have moved online, if they take place at all. Other celebrations of Veterans Day will be more muted in this time of the coronavirus.

But that lack of a solemn spotlight of celebration and appreciation does not mean that any of us should forget the effort and sacrifice our veterans made on behalf of our country. They have earned more than our thanks. They have earned our commitment to take care of them after their service is complete.

Many of our veterans are struggling, and we cannot ignore their problems. They are still committing suicide at higher rates than the general population. Some still suffer from the lifelong trauma of sexual abuse, which continues to plague increasing numbers of active duty members to this day. Substance abuse and homelessness remain significant challenges for veterans. The environmental hazards from burn pits and other warfare toxins are still unknown, and the full consequences of traumatic brain injury are still being learned.

President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris pitched good ideas to address many of these problems during their campaign and must now deliver. Those proposals include vigorous hiring to fill an alarming staffing shortage of nearly 50,000 positions in the Department of Veterans Affairs including — most critically — nurses, psychiatrists and psychologists. And fully funding research and prevention efforts regarding suicide, so that any veteran who needs mental health assistance gets it promptly, and starting a public education campaign to reduce the stigma around seeking help for mental health problems. And expanding job training programs. And appointing someone with excellent credentials to head the massive Veterans Affairs who can finally deliver quality and timely care to the nation’s more than 17 million veterans. Local governments must play a role, too, by working harder to make sure that affordable housing for veterans continues to get built here on Long Island and across the country.

Biden will bring to the presidency a well-known, lifelong and absolute respect for military members. We hope that will help him convince Congress to join him in his efforts. We trust that it will translate to a greater respect for the role of the military than we have seen recently.

We should hold our veterans close to our hearts — all of our veterans. Those who served in World War II, the ones lionized as America’s greatest generation, continue to dwindle in number but still command universal respect. Veterans from other conflicts where the nation’s involvement was more controversial — Vietnam to the Middle East to Afghanistan and elsewhere — deserve similar consideration and care. Their sacrifices were no less consequential.

Our veterans have given us a lot. We owe them a lot in return. It’s a debt that must be repaid, and not just on Veterans Day.

— The editorial board

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