Happy Independence Day!
For many of us, today is a day off work to celebrate American independence with barbecues, parades, fireworks, and the start of summer. But it’s easy to get caught up in the excitement and forget how we won our independence in the first place.
However you choose to spend this Fourth of July, remember to honor those who fought and died to defend our freedom. More importantly, remember the nation’s 22 million veterans. Our veterans may have survived a war, but some of these brave men and women continue to fight private battles most of us can’t imagine.
Independence Day and Veterans
On July 4, 1776, the United States claimed its independence from England, marking the birth of our nation. July 4 is now known as Independence Day, which we wouldn’t be able to celebrate without veterans and their families.
It was veterans’ heroic efforts to risk their lives, and their loved ones’ brave support, that granted Americans the priceless gift of free and full lives.
In return, it’s our obligation to help veterans celebrate the freedom they so selflessly earned. But honoring their service isn’t as simple as thanking them. What many people forget is the stress of holidays like these for veterans who suffer serious health issues.
The Quiet (but Deadly) Struggles Veterans Suffer
Burns, loss of limbs, and loss of vision or hearing are common results of combat. Yet a large proportion of veterans – often much larger than the general population – suffer injuries we can’t see.
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), substance abuse, chronic pain, weakened immune system, heart disease, and respiratory diseases resulting from exposures in their service are a few such examples of veterans’ long-term, misunderstood health concerns. Research has found a particularly strong correlation between veterans and mesothelioma, yet it’s still uncommon knowledge that veterans represent a third of all mesothelioma cases.
Despite their disproportionate suffering, veterans are deprived of a healthcare system that recognizes injuries both seen and unseen. In other words, they face unnecessary barriers to care. The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) requires proof that benefits applicants developed their diseases in service before offering them financial help. For diseases like mesothelioma that take decades to develop, this is impossible if not challenging. Thousands of veterans die waiting for approval.
How Can We Help?
The good news is, you can help support veterans who need better access to care. Here are 3 ways to make a difference:
- Join Washington state residents for the 7th annual Miles for Meso 5K Run/Walk, whose goal is to raise $20,000 for the Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation. It’s not too late to register upon arrival.
- Help the U.K. raise awareness of asbestos diseases. There, today is Action Mesothelioma Day in Great Britain, which recognizes individuals and families affected by mesothelioma. You can help by sharing information about the campaign with your social networks.
- If you know a veteran personally, get in touch with someone who can help them navigate the complexities of VA benefits applications.
And when those fireworks light up your festivities, take a moment to reflect on the sacrifices veterans made so you could enjoy them. It’s time to demand the care they deserve.