Is it enough?

FI-EditorialGreenwich turned out in force this past Monday for Veterans Day, marching down Greenwich Avenue by the hundreds to support the men and women who have bravely served this country and then marking their contributions at an annual ceremony. But is it enough?

Without being a veteran, it’s impossible to speak from the perspective of one, as theirs, especially those who served in combat, is entirely unique. No one knows what it’s like to put your life on the line for your country and your fellow soldiers unless you’ve actually done it, and only a select few volunteers today can say that they have. But it can at least be hoped that the veterans who marched in the parade and those at the ceremony by the town’s war memorial were touched by the sincere outpouring of support from town civilians who truly appreciate their contributions.

Memorial Day is the time to honor those who paid the ultimate sacrifice. Veterans Day is the time to celebrate all that veterans do for us. Greenwich has never been shy about showing its patriotism and thanks to dedicated volunteers. Bruce Winningham, whose Greenwich Covenant of Care organized the parade, and Christopher Hughes, a Marine veteran and commander of Greenwich’s American Legion Post 29, are just some of the people who have given selflessly of their time in this town to help veterans.

But is it enough? When we say thank you to our veterans, are we backing that up with action? Action isn’t in this case doing something like “making every day like Veterans Day” or some other platitude. And it’s not about using veterans as a cheap prop for political purposes, like making sure your flag pin is the biggest before an event. It’s about making sure that people actually are supporting veterans.

That means supporting charities and organizations dedicated to making civilian life as easy as possible for veterans. It means putting pressure on the Obama administration to clean up the underpublicized but still jaw-droppingly incompetent bureaucracy at the Veterans Administration (VA). And it means calling out the Republican lawmakers in Congress who are so eager to make huge cuts to spending while standing in front of a sea of American flags that they hope you don’t notice that the recent cuts to food stamps they are advocating impact 170,000 veterans nationwide.

Veterans have sacrificed so much to make our lives better and easier. Are we doing the same for them? What are we doing to help them as much as they’ve helped us? These questions need to be asked, and they need to spur action. What good are our national politicians if they’re just going to use veterans as a prop for the worst kind of cheap, cynical patriotism that looks good on TV but does nothing to actually help anyone?

That’s where the people come in. Greenwich has shown its willingness time and time again not only to salute the veterans who live among us but to actually be there with help when they need it. Greenwich has shown that saying thank you to veterans is not just lip service. But it has to be more. Greenwich is setting an example not just with public events like the parade, which, it is hoped, will actually become the promised annual event, and with the American Legion’s ceremony, but with the private actions individuals take, away from the public spotlight.

That example can be pushed further to inspire not only those in town who haven’t gotten involved but other communities as well. Backing up words with actions, demanding more of our politicians and helping however we can is the best way to say thank you.

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