This Friday Nov. 11 is Veteran’s Day. On this day I ask that you take the time to remember our country’s veterans, the brave men and women who served in our military.
Did you know that Veteran’s Day actually started out as Armistice Day? The day recognized the ending of World War I fighting at 11 a.m. on Nov. 11, 1918, and Congress recognized it as a national holiday in 1926. Congress proposed changing the word Armistice to the word Veterans after World War II, and President Eisenhower signed the bill approving the change in 1954.
Now, each year Veteran’s Day is an opportunity to honor and recognize our nation’s veterans, for their hard work, their sacrifices, and their devotion to the military and the United States.
I mentioned several entries ago that I am only just beginning to learn about veteran and military culture. In recognition of this week’s holiday, let me give you a little bit of the information I have already learned.
The projected veteran population from the Department of Veterans Affairs as of 9/30/2010 is 22,658,000, and 28 percent of all deaths in the United States are veteran deaths.
Last week, the Tucson community had the opportunity to listen to Deborah Grassman, a respected hospice nurse with 30 years of experience with a VA hospice in Florida. She wrote a book, Peace At Last: Stories of Hope and Healing for Veterans and their Families, and shared the experience and knowledge she’s gained in working with veterans at the end of life. Her presentation helps hospice professionals understand the varied perspectives veterans have, and in understanding how the war experience can help shape a veteran’s end of life journey.
Within hospice, we’re seeing a lot of World War II veterans, as well as some Korean and Vietnam War veterans. Each war era left unique effects on its veterans. For example, World War II veterans were celebrated for their efforts. They are also at risk for infectious diseases, suffered frostbite, and were exposed to nuclear weapons. However, this was not the case for the soldiers who served in the Vietnam War. These veterans experienced a very negative atmosphere when they returned home, and many talk of the solitude of being a soldier in the Vietnam War. As a result, these veterans often suffer from significant mental health and substance abuse issues.
These are just a couple examples of veteran experiences, and it should be noted that not every veteran suffers from these post-war issues. Grassman defines three possible trajectories for veterans after a war: successful integration, apparent integration, and not integrated. As professionals, we need to tread carefully to discover the trajectory that our patients are on. We need to continue to educate ourselves about this unique patient population, and strive to give them the good death each person deserves.
If you have the opportunity this week, if you know a veteran or just bump into one at the store, remember to say thank you for your service.