Today is Veteran’s Day. In my mind, every day should be Veteran’s Day in some form. Given what the men and women in uniform have sacrificed, their time with families, their education, their health, and, yes, their lives, we as a nation should honor them.
Yet many veterans are struggling. Like most public servants they are underpaid. They return from battlezones to find that many don’t want to hire them. Or they are injured physically and need long recoveries. And then there is the PTSD, Agent Orange, and a host of other neurological issues brought on by toxic chemicals, or traumatic brain injuries due to one too many explosions.
As librarians we can help. First and foremost we should consider putting up a display championing our local veterans. Ask patrons to bring in photos and consider hosting a series of events that include Veterans, families and the services that support them.
Ask a veteran to assist with story hour, read the Librarian of Basra or The Iraq War Just for Kids. Support veterans by having the local VA contact numbers clearly posted, along with packets to provide them with information about where to find work, or housing, or begin to take classes.
Invite them to help you teach teens how to research their grandparents war time experiences, by looking for archives like this one that highlight the division my father was a part of in World War II.
Encourage patrons to ask veterans in their communities to share their stories. Consider building a simple repository of those stories so that future generations can learn about local heroes who participated in conflicts that they are reading about in their history books.
Speaking of books, make sure you have a rich collection of materials, both fiction and non-fiction to support patrons who want to dig deeper into military history, or in some cases make sense of what they have been through. If a homeless person comes into your library, support them. Statistically, veterans comprise nine percent of our homeless population. As a nation we can do better.
Today I will light some candles and remember the veterans in my family. My nephew, who was a medic in Iraq. My mother, who was a SPAR in World War II, supporting the Coast Guard. My father, who fought in the South Pacific in World War II, and later brought troops up the Mekong Delta to fight in Vietnam. No matter whether we agree or disagree with the conflicts they are in, we should thank every veteran we encounter. It is the least we can do for their service to us.