Dear Sgt Shaft,
As national president of Gold Star Wives of America, a national veterans service organization, I recently wrote a letter to President Obama that Id like to share with you and your readers.
The letter said, “On behalf of Gold Star Wives of America, I would like to express our organizations disappointment in your State of the Union Address on Wednesday evening. In your speech you spoke about the ‘respect, gratitude, and full support’ that should be shown our men and women in uniform around the world. What about the respect, gratitude, and support owed the men and women in uniform who have made the ultimate sacrifice, and those theyve left behind? We applaud your support for service members and their families; however, we would like to see equal public recognition and support for the survivors of the fallen. Youve diminished our spouses sacrifice by ignoring them, and us.
“Mr. President, you supported survivor issues when you were in the Senate, why have you abandoned us now when you can truly make a difference? Just a word or two of acknowledgment would have been nice.”
Gold Star Wives asks everyone to remember and honor the fallen and their surviving family members, not just those who are currently serving and their families.
— Kit Frazer, national president, Gold Star Wives of America
I urge the president to not only mention the sacrifices of the fallen, but also to support programs espoused by you and other surviving spouses such as SBP/DIC (Survivor Benefit Plan/Dependency and Indemnity Compensation) offset legislation, which is dormant in Congress.
Kudos to Sen. Daniel K. Akaka, Hawaii Democrat and chairman of the Veterans Affairs Committee, for his continuous advocacy on behalf of veterans suffering from the invisible wounds of war. This was manifested most recently in an oversight hearing on veteran suicide and mental health issues.
Mr. Akaka, who has championed a number of veterans mental health and suicide-prevention bills which are now law, sought to hear from veterans and VA leadership on the implementation of these measures.
“Just as we must provide our troops with the equipment and tools they need when they are sent to battle, we must do more to help veterans battle the enemy of mental illness,” Mr. Akaka said. “VA has made important improvements in recent years, but we must continue to work until what now seems impossible becomes a reality: that no veteran who returns from service is lost to suicide.”
Mr. Akaka is the author of the Veterans Mental Health and Other Care Improvements Act (Public Law 110-387), a sweeping bill passed in 2008 to address the dual issues of substance abuse and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) among veterans. This legislation paid tribute to Justin Bailey, a veteran who died of a drug overdose while receiving treatment from VA for PTSD and substance abuse.
Mr. Akaka also co-sponsored the Joshua Omvig Veterans Suicide Prevention Act, passed in 2007 to improve VAs suicide prevention efforts and establish a counseling hot line that has led to more than 1,000 rescues.
Witnesses at the hearing drew from firsthand knowledge to discuss the challenges faced by veterans with invisible wounds, which sometimes produce tragic consequences. Mr. Daniel Hanson, an Iraq war veteran, discussed his difficult road from attempted suicide to recovery, to which he largely credited a year-plus residential recovery program outside of VA. A witness from VAs suicide prevention hot line described the successful rescue of a veteran who had attempted to take his own life.View Entire Story
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