Every Nov. 11 the soldiers who have fought bravely and gave their lives for this country to protect the rights we hold dearly are remembered with parades and solemn ceremonies at military grave sites.
Over the past few decades, the focus has broadened to include the impact war has had on today’s veterans. Questions have been raised regarding their welfare and that of their families as they assimilate back to life stateside.
Originally called Armistice Day, the 11th day of the 11th month has been set aside to honor all those U.S. veterans who served during wars. The original designation was given to reflect the truce at the end of World War I, which was signed in 1918 on Nov. 11. Now called Veterans Day after President Dwight Eisenhower signed a bill declaring the day as such, it is now a time to remember those soldiers lost and those still alive.
Other than the annual ceremony at Memorial Grove in Van Cortlandt Park, which was held last Sunday, Riverdale’s military veteran organizations mark their day in their own special way. Those groups include the American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars and Vietnam Veterans of America.
And then there is Manhattan College, which has the Veterans Alumni Club and Student Veteran Organization on campus. It has been a long-time partner school supporting the post 9/11 GI Bill Yellow Ribbon program. Last year, the college opened its expanded Student Veteran Success Center at the former site of a dining hall. The $100,000 project is not only a hangout space for veteran students, but it has ample designated areas for studying. It was originally built the center in 2017.
The idea behind the center is to provide a quiet place for veterans to transition back to life in the U.S. after serving overseas. For many discharged members, finding a job has been a struggle.
As late as 2020, the unemployment rate for veterans who served in the armed forces was 6.5 percent, which was nearly a two-percentage point increase from 2019. Granted, some of that was due to the pandemic. Unemployment has always been higher for veterans when compared to the rest of the population.
Even though the GI bill pays for veterans’ college costs, many of them don’t get to earn their degree until they are in the 30s and 40s. That’s because they serve numerous tours before being discharged. The difference in age with most of the college population has been another hurdle for veterans transitioning to everyday life.
When you consider there are 20 million veterans out there — including many who are disabled due to combat — achieving a college education and getting a job are two major feats. Many come back with PTSD, lost limbs, traumatic brain injuries to name a few of the maladies. They seek help from the Veterans Administration, but they don’t always get what they need.
While Manhattan College’s program offers some help for local veterans, there is more that is needed. And there are organizations out there can help. If you are a veteran needing help or know of one who does, you can reach out to the following organizations:
• DAV (Disabled American Veterans), dav.org
• Bronx Vet Center, (718) 367-3500
• Italian American War Veterans, (347) 810-9810
• National Association for Black Veterans, nabvetsthebronx.org
• American Legion, (347) 427-1411
• Veterans of Foreign Wars, (718) 549-9870
Let’s not forget our veterans.