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  • Writer's pictureJoss Burns

Make Memorial Day to honor them – and Veterans Day to support them

A female veteran returns home to her family that embraces her.

Veterans Crisis Line

24/7, confidential crisis support for Veterans and their loved ones.

Contact the Veterans Crisis Line: Dial 988 then Press 1, chat online, or text 838255.

People sometimes get confused about the difference between Memorial Day and Veterans Day. Memorial Day, which is celebrated on the last Monday of May, is a day that’s been set aside to remember and honor any military personnel who died while serving their country. Special emphasis is placed on those who lost their lives in battle or due to wounds sustained in battle.

Veterans Day, while also honoring those who lost their lives, has a broader scope to include everyone who has served honorably in the US military. On this day, there is greater emphasis placed on veterans who are still alive.

Not all veterans make it back from war whole, whether due to physical injuries or mental health trauma. These are individuals who have sacrificed a substantial part of their lives and health in service of the wider community.

This November, they deserve more than honor, respect, and thanks. They also deserve access to the mental health services and resources necessary to ensure their lives post-military are long and happy.

Mental health and military veterans

It’s likely not a surprise to anyone that military personnel, particularly those who have seen active duty, are susceptible to mental health issues. Studies show that individuals who are deployed are up to three times more likely to develop PTSD than peers who did not serve.

The reasons that army personnel develop mental health issues are broad. For example, while it may be due to the military occupation itself, other root causes could be the politics of the way, the country where the war is fought, or the type of enemy they face.

Even veterans who didn’t see active duty can be at higher risk of mental health complications due to something called military sexual trauma (MST). MST, which covers all kinds of sexual abuse while serving, can happen during training, peacetime, or while at war.

Common signs that a veteran is struggling

No two individuals respond the same to a stressful situation and veterans who have seen active duty are the same. That said, we can identify a few common themes that can alert us to veterans who are struggling.

Post-deployment stress is often found among individuals who have seen intense action and is closely related to PTSD. When they return from combat – particularly where close friends or colleagues have lost their lives – there are feelings of sadness, hopelessness or even anxiety, anger, and guilt.

In many cases, the soldiers or other army personnel don’t feel they can talk about their issues, but these intense emotions manifest in other ways. This can range from trouble concentrating to thoughts about death or suicide. There is also a greater tendency to misuse drugs, alcohol, or have ongoing issues with sleep.

While these behaviors may be part of an adjusting period as veterans become used to civilian life once more, they can also be signs of deeper mental health problems. Known as “invisible wounds,” these are serious issues that can affect veterans and their families years after they finished their last tour.

How you can support military veterans

There are a number of ways you can give back to veterans, whether as part of a national initiative, helping those in Illinois, or directly supporting a close friend or family.

Wounded Warrior Project

The Wounded Warrior Project (WWP) is a fantastic nationwide project that was setup to aid in the recovery process of individuals returning from war. With the help of generous supporters, the project arranges activities, career counseling services, and rehabilitation initiatives to help veterans and their families.

There are a number of ways you can take part, whether sending letters to service members, hosting a supporter event, making a donation, or setting up a monthly gift.

Disabled American Veterans

With over 1.2 million members, the Disabled American Veterans (DAV) offers essential services to disabled veterans and their families.

The DAV offers disability benefits, VA pensions, job programs, and more to its members, which includes both veterans and their families. It's important to note that DAV operates without government funding, making donations and gifts absolutely essential to continue offering these vital services to our veterans.

If you are considering making a cash donation, it is a fantastic organization to contribute to.

Homes for Our Troops

The final nationwide organization we’d like to highlight is Homes for Our Troops (HFOT). Many veterans who return from war have sustained life-changing injuries and need homes that are able to accommodate them.

This organization builds and donates homes that have been adapted for the individuals, giving them greater freedom and independence in their lives as civilians.

Are you a veteran in Illinois?

If you are a veteran in Illinois, there are a number of programs open to you, whether you would like to get a military license plate to recognize your service, apply for benefits, or have any other questions about finding support.

Finally, if you’re a veteran and are struggling with your mental health, there is no reason to suffer in silence. At Mental Health of America Illinois, we are always available to offer the support you need.

Simply get in touch with us and we will do everything we can to put you in contact with the right professional to ensure that you can live a long and happy life after your service is over.

Likewise, if you believe a close friend or family member is struggling with their mental health, please talk to them and try to arrange a meeting with us. We are here to help.

Contact us today for more information.

Veterans Crisis Line

24/7, confidential crisis support for Veterans and their loved ones.

To contact the Veterans Crisis Line: Dial 988 then Press 1, chat online, or text 838255.


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