With the passing of Veterans Day, we can’t help but ponder an admittedly abstract and difficult question. What does it mean to truly care?
It is well known to those in military families or those in the military themselves that all too often, the well-intentioned days like Veterans Day and Memorial Day serve merely as intermittent benchmarks for far too many people to say a few words of hollow gratitude and then summarily forget the sacrifices they make every day, not merely on ceremonially days of recognition.
This is not to say that Veterans Day or Memorial Day should be done away with – they should continue to be celebrated proudly – it is merely vital that we utilize these days as magnifying glasses to focus attention on the needs of our veterans throughout the year, not just for brief moments in time.
Interestingly, another event that recently occurred provides an appropriate parallel to how we must treat our veterans all of the time. The Family Caregiver Alliance of Rhode Island hosted its annual caregiver awards at the Rhode Island State House on Thursday. The Beacon was the only media outlet in attendance, but it seems as though the meaning of the event warranted much more attention.
Honored at the awards are people who give all of their time, energy and efforts to caring for people who can no longer care for themselves. Whether they are cherished loved ones within their family – as one woman was honored for caring for her aging mother – or complete strangers, as another honoree was awarded for helping tend to an elderly man’s worsening health, these people exemplify what it means to truly care about someone else.
That same selflessness is evident in many of our nation’s veterans. Though we don’t pretend that any large group of human beings is infallible or devoid of anomalous bad characters, the vast majority of those signed up to be caregivers – either officially with a caregiving organization or unofficially, as someone who chooses to take on the incredibly tenuous role of a caregiver on top of all their other responsibilities – do so out of an unbelievable desire to help others.
The same can be said about veterans and active duty military members, who gave up or continue to give up the comforts we enjoy in order to stand as a protector towards those very comforts they forsake and we sometimes take for granted. The two occupancies, despite being inherently different in their duties, are rooted in similar qualities of benevolence and answering to a higher call of duty that is simply bigger than individual needs or wants.
So, it is great news to hear that legislative actions are taking place to help out caregivers – and particularly caregivers to our state’s some 65,000 veterans. Funding for respite services to give caregivers resources they need to maintain healthy lives and take some rare, much-needed time for themselves has never been at a higher level, according to staunch veterans’ affairs and caregiving advocate Congressman Jim Langevin.
To us, truly caring and honoring our veterans incorporates more than giving thankful speeches or flying a flag or wearing a patriotic shirt. All of these activities are relatively passive. To truly honor our veterans, we must be more like caregivers – tirelessly advocating for more aid to our Veterans Associations, helping out through volunteer efforts and realizing that with age comes expensive needs that require tending to. Truly caring requires real time and effort and investment.
We are happy to see Rhode Island honor its veterans in ceremonious ways and in tangible ways, such as the state-of-the-art VA facility that opened last year. Only through the mindset of a caregiver can we truly give the care needed to support those who would have – and had – sacrificed everything for us.