Reflection: Veterans Forum

We’ve completed 78 Town Hall meetings now, in a wide range of communities across the 9th District.  I’ve met and spoken with thousands of people I did not know and learned so much, both about the problems we face and the work people in our communities are doing to fix things. 

Of all these incredible gatherings, our recent Veterans Town Hall (September 6th in Christiansburg) was one of the best.  Though the group was small, my notepad quickly filled as men and women from different branches and different wars shared their stories, offered their assessment of the current situation for vets, and discussed some of the work they’re doing to create more and better opportunities for their fellow service members.  I heard about overprescribing pain pills leading to a battle against addiction; about outstanding care received for catastrophic injuries at Walter Reed Medical Center; about great care at VA hospitals, and about very inadequate care, especially when staff turns over; about how we ought to spend more time and resources to avoid armed conflict and create the conditions for peace; and about a range of efforts to help veterans transition to civilian life, to job opportunities, to their own farms and businesses. 

One thing I heard, repeated many times, was the sense of comradery that vets feel, the sense they had while in uniform “someone’s always got your back”, that you won’t be abandoned, that you’re in this together.  And that one of the hardest adjustments many face when their service is over it the lack of this care and connection in the civilian world.  It struck me as so unfortunate that people get more sense of brotherhood in a war zone than when back home in our nation. 

To all of the men and women who made our Veterans Town Hall so rich and full for me, I extend my deepest appreciation. And on today, 17 years after the September 11 terrorist attacks, my heart goes out to the victims' families who surely still grieve; to the 1st responders who braved deadly conditions; & to those who strive to keep us safe, whether soldiers, diplomats or aid workers fostering understanding & peace.