Every generation of veterans respects and appreciates the generations of veterans that have come before us. There is no question that their sacrifices made our military, and nation, what it is. However, what about the gratitude to the generations that come after? That generation is that of Post 9/11 veterans.
No conversation among salty grunts is complete without some dig at younger generations of veterans and those actively serving."Back in my day....." or "I can't believe they let them....." Be it training, uniforms and equipment, or the increase in creature comforts; older veterans always have a commentary about those after them. But the truth is, all of us who served prior to 9/11, owe a huge thank you to the veterans who served in the "Post 9/11" era. We have all benefited not only from their service but also their advocacy. I am a veteran of the early 1990's. As a Marine infantryman, I served in the first Gulf War. Those of my generation also knew places like Somalia, Liberia, Haiti, and the Balkans. And of course many of our senior leaders knew places like Beirut and Grenada, not to mention even a few that served in Vietnam.
Changing of the Guard
Prior to 9/11, our service and sacrifice was largely unknown or ignored by most of our citizenry. The truth is unless one had a loved one who served, the idea of military service was a foreign one to most Americans and the reality of operations was not understood. The idea of improving veteran's health care or addressing mental health and PTSD was simply not a conversation in our country. Hiring veterans was only a topic in government employment, and most educational and financial benefits were limited for veterans. All if this changed because of the Post 9/11 veterans.
A New Sense of Awareness
9/11 brought the reality of war to our own soil and as a result produced a new generation of military men and women. The technologies of non stop news and social media brought everyday citizens closer than ever to the sounds and images of war. The tempo of deployments, the huge dependency on reservists and National Guard units brought the realities of war to almost every community in the nation. That said, the realities of those returning from deployments was now also felt in every community. The issues facing veterans of all generations was finally a national conversation. 9/11 did not only produce a new generation of warrior and veteran, but also a new generation of citizen and advocate.
Post 9/11 Veteran Advocacy
For almost two decades now, these veterans have been not only the voice but also the action. This is the generation that exposed the problems in the VA system, this is the generation that brought awareness to veteran suicide, and now these veterans are the loudest voice about issues that effect not only themselves but veterans such as myself from generations prior. Truth of the matter, many if not most veterans of my generation had no awareness of the things we may be going through in terms of our physical and mental health. Most of us never thought the VA could help us, and most if us just kept our wounds to ourselves. The voice of Post 9/11 veterans has brought awareness and solutions for all veterans and their families. More than ever we see veteran owned companies growing and using their success and image to advocate for veterans. A great example is our very own parent company Grunt Style. The leadership under Tim Jensen is pushing Congress to address the impact of burn pits to veterans health. Burn pits also impact veterans of Operation Desert Storm.
The advocacy and awareness brought after 9/11 has led to significant improvements in the VA system. There is much work to be done, but veteran care is in a much better place today than a decade ago. One of the biggest victories for veterans is the Veteran Access to Care Act of 2014. Influenced by Post 9/11 veterans, this Act has improved care for veterans of all eras.
The Dangers of Today
There is much to be thankful for. However, the accomplishments of these veterans is under threat today. The current climate and division in our country is drowning out the conversations that have been helping veterans. We are seeing a growing disdain for veterans and those currently serving.Now more than ever the voice of every veteran needs to be loud. All veterans needs to be shoulder to shoulder with the Post 9/11 veterans and all of their activism.
A Special Gratitude
Post 9/11 veterans have fought a type of war unlike anything in our history. They have come home and been a voice for all veterans.