The Fourth of July is a time for picnics, fireworks, and celebrating our liberties as Americans. We enjoy freedom of expression, religion, assembly, and the press, and cherish our right to express diverse opinions.
At the same time, we cannot forget to honor those who have served our country to defend these rights: the men and women of the Armed Services. These individuals have dedicated years, if not decades, to protecting and preserving the benefits we believe define our country. But as we celebrate our veterans, we must remember the battles they continue to fight.
Continuing Battles on the Home Front
Many veterans have returned home with both visible and invisible injuries from their terms of service. While physical scars and the loss of limbs are some of the more obvious injuries, many of the wounds they bear are far less evident. One of these has been the increased risk of mesothelioma due to asbestos exposure. Since the cancer-causing material was used extensively in the U.S. Navy and as an insulator in ship-building during years past, it may be decades before veterans develop the deadly disease.
Veterans have also been found to have a range of chronic health problems, including a weakened immune system, chronic pain, and respiratory issues. Some of these conditions may be linked to the emotional scars of PTSD, and lasting effects on the limbic system.
Additionally, those who did military service are twice as likely to have heart disease, and more prone to engage in addictive behaviors such as drinking and smoking that can lead to other health problems. Those who had tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan also have a higher risk of skin cancer, due to long periods of sun exposure.
Fighting for Fairness
There are many reasons why we can be proud to be Americans, to live in a country built on the diversity of its citizens and opinions.
This trait has made us strong as a nation, resulting in technological innovations that have led to one of the most advances health care systems in the world. But this network must be able to treat all Americans, including the veterans who have continued to make our freedoms possible.
We must ensure that they are not deprived of a health care system that treats the injuries we can see and the ones we can’t. Our veterans must be able to enjoy the full benefit of the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness that they have protected for all of us.