By Rep. Darrio Melton
Yesterday on Veteran’s Day, I took time to reflect on the blessings in my life and to pray for those who have put their lives on the line to protect us. We owe everything to the brave men and women in uniform: fathers, mothers, sisters and brothers who have left their families so that our families may remain safe and free.
I believe that we should show our gratitude for their service 365 days a year, not just on Veteran’s Day. I also believe that our actions towards our veterans speak louder than our words.
Here in Alabama, many of our state legislators have been quick to attend public ceremonies and express their gratitude for our service men and women. But where was that gratitude when we were voting on issues that directly affect our veterans?
Due to budget cuts pushed through the legislature, 17 veterans service offices have closed around the state. These offices are in every county to help eligible men and women apply for and receive claims, such as medical needs, housing assistance and disability.
An estimated 29,000 veterans and hundreds of other military personnel will now have less food on the table due to federal cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), also known as food stamps. For veterans who may be unemployed or disabled, these benefits are critical for their families.
One trip to the VA Hospital in Birmingham should be enough to tell you that we are not adequately caring for our veterans, many of whom have chronic physical and mental health issues. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, depression and substance abuse affect hundreds of thousands of our veterans. Each day, 22 veterans commit suicide—that’s nearly one each hour.
On Veteran’s Day, we say thank you. But how do our actions throughout the year reflect that gratitude? We must stand up and take care of our men and women in uniform. We cannot allow partisan politics to get in the way of their care, for without them we would not be the land of the free.
We must show them with our actions what our words cannot express.—that we are eternally grateful for the sacrifices they have made and we will do everything we can to ensure they are treated like the heroes they are.
Representative Darrio Melton is a Democrat from Selma. He was elected to the Alabama House of Representatives in 2010.