Twenty-two years ago, on March 15, 1989, President Bush elevated the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to a Cabinet-level position. He said, “There is only one place for the veterans of America, in the Cabinet Room, at the table with the President of the United States of America.” (va.gov)
Caring for our veterans began in this country long before a United States was ever envisioned. In 1636, the Pilgrims passed a law to care for disabled veterans who were injured in their war against the Pequot Indians. That philosophy has never ended.
In 1789 George Washington said, “The willingness with which our young are likely to serve in any war, no matter how justified, shall be directly proportional to how they perceive the Veterans of earlier wars were treated and appreciated by their nation.” No truer words were ever spoken.
The predecessors to VA employees and volunteers were there at every conflict in the history of this country. Throughout its history, the success of the VA – and its reputation – has been a direct result of the government’s ability to provide it with sufficient funds to care for those in its charge.
Recently I found myself in a position to work closely with VA employees at the federal and state levels. In private conversations I have seen their eyes grow misty as they try to put their passion for the veterans into words. They vow to do whatever they can to provide the proper support to those who have served, and I have seen them back up those words.
That is not to say there aren’t challenges. There are. But I for one am tired of hearing nothing but bad news about the VA. This country has the best veteran support system in the world, and they are changing lives for the better. I have seen it.
The hard working and dedicated employees on the front lines of caring for those who have served are our heroes of the week.