2017-11-05 / Insight


Take a knee in quiet reflection

ED RONDERS ED RONDERS Editor’s note: The following column was written by Edward Ronders, director of the Lapeer County Veterans Affairs Office.

Lapeer County recently concluded its 50-year commemoration of the Vietnam War. The event spanned three years, capped by a large dinner for Vietnam veterans in North Branch last month.

Last night (Saturday Nov. 4) a group of energetic and dedicated students hosted their second annual dinner to honor veterans of all wars. The Veterans Esteem Team of Lapeer County planned and executed the event held at Almont High School. It was there way of thanking all veterans for their service.

A few short months ago, in late May to be exact, veterans, their families, high school marching bands and neighbors gathered to salute our fallen warriors. Veterans, many with creaky legs racked with painful joints, navigated Lapeer County cemeteries reverently placing American flags at the graves of heroes.

The dinners have concluded, the speeches are over and the parades are placed in memory books until next year.

Next weekend, America pauses once again to pay tribute observing Veterans Day Saturday, though the “official” holiday is Friday. But then what?

We’ll go on with our daily lives. So will our proud veterans. While most will begin focusing on the upcoming firearm deer season and the looming Thanksgiving holiday, many veterans and their families will continue to carry the scars of conflict. Some do so silently. Others not.

Recent months at our office have been an eye opener. There are many veterans right here in this caring community who struggle with a host of issues.

Some in our community are unaware there IS a homeless problems among Lapeer County veterans. Some civic leaders may not WANT to hear those words. But they NEED to hear those words.

Other veterans, too many in my opinion, grapple with the demons of mental health disorders. In the private sector, too many don’t grasp the issues that compound that problem for veterans. In the VA bureaucracy, too many veterans are warehoused, shuffled from one facility to another, trapped in a system that tries mightily but too often misses the mark of delivering the needed services.

Within the past few weeks, local resources have teamed up with our staff, other veterans programs and community resources to pull veterans from the brink of possible suicide. For that we are grateful.

It was a relief when one veteran accessed the needed assistance (getting him into the hands of the professionals, I say). But then I wondered, “Now what?”

It is our duty — the community’s duty — to continue to help this (and other veterans) on their journey.

But yes, suicide among veterans exists in our caring community. As does hunger. Anxiety. Frustration. Substance abuse.

It’s not just the veteran’s problem, though. It’s a burden we all must carry. The dinners are great. Parades? Ditto.

But we need to band together and insure our veterans are treasured each and every day. This duty will never end. Honoring veterans is an everyday responsibility.

There’s some professional athletes who exhibit their concerns over perceived social injustices by disrespect- ing the American flag, our nation and the American veteran by kneeling during our national anthem. They say no disrespect to veterans intended. That is not their judgment to make. Disrespect is in the eye of the beholder. If one veteran among 22 million in this country and 6,400 in Lapeer County feels disrespected, it is disrespect.

May I humbly suggest these misguided souls go to a national cemetery and take a quiet knee at the grave of an American hero and offer a silent prayer?

That’s an exercise all Americans and do. Not just Memorial Day or Veterans Day.

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