On Nov. 3, over 7,000 veterans, ROTC members, and veteran service organizations marched in the Philadelphia Veterans Parade. They also participated in Vet Fest, a lively and family-friendly gathering where veterans and family members could discover resources to address any number of issues they may face in a lighthearted and judgment-free atmosphere.
While this was a time for celebration, we also need to remember and honor our veterans more than once a year to ensure that the scars of their sacrifices are addressed and their needs are met year round — and not just on Nov. 11, Veterans Day.
The parade’s grand marshal, Cpl. Roland Scarinici, 96, who served in the Marine Corps in World War II, entertained crowds with a rendition of America the Beautiful on his harmonica. His story reflects the commitment, bravery, and service that has become so closely associated with the Greatest Generation. We were lucky enough to have in the parade the Montfort Point Marines who demonstrated the grit and sacrifice these brave men are known for.
Vietnam veterans were honored and received the respect, admiration, and gratitude that had eluded them for so many years. Veterans of Iraq, Afghanistan, and the global War on Terror demonstrated the spirit of service and sacrifice continues among younger generations.
While Vet Fest was a jubilant atmosphere with a beer garden, food trucks, and bands playing throughout the day, a somber tone was present as service organizations were on hand to reach out to veterans who are struggling with issues ranging from mental health and addiction, to access to health-care benefits, career and educational opportunities as well as financial assistance.
With over 200,000 veterans in the greater Philadelphia region, too many individuals are quietly suffering with unmet needs. Women veterans face different challenges than male counterparts ranging from child care to housing insecurity as well as mental health. In general, veterans are reluctant to seek help. Family members serve as a vital connection between organizations and individuals to make sure veterans tap into strong support networks.
We need to do better. Vets already wrote their checks to this country, and it’s time we thank them for their contributions. Philadelphia’s largest employers like Comcast, Wells Fargo, and Independence Blue Cross all have strong veteran recruitment and support programs. These employers recognize the values and strengths veterans uniquely bring to their careers. We encourage companies of every size from start-up to Fortune 500 to do the same. Discipline, dedication, and process-oriented results are hallmarks among the veteran community.
Veterans comprise a diverse population not just in ethnicity, race, religion, and gender, but also in financial stability. There is a huge chasm between those experiencing career and financial success and those who are underemployed and struggling to make ends meet. Other veterans are homeless and have addiction and/or mental health issues. It is our responsibility as fellow citizens to reach out and not only offer a hand, but also to say thank you — we are listening and we want to understand how we can assist.
This Veterans Day, let’s show more appreciation through tangible acts of service and kindness by donating or volunteering with local organizations like the Veterans Multi-Service Center, the Veterans Group, and the HAVEN Women’s Center. These groups and many others are always looking for help, all 365 days of the year that our veterans may be easily forgotten.