Nov. 11 is a day to celebrate all generations of veterans and their families.
It's an opportunity to honor grandfathers and grandmothers, moms and dads, sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, and battle buddies, as our American family recognizes those who put their lives at risk and, in many instances, suffered life-changing injuries for our freedoms.
We will celebrate them all: those few left who fought in the "Great War" of World War I, the "Greatest Generation" of World War II, our heroes of the Vietnam, Korea and the Gulf, and the latest generation of Iraq and Afghanistan. And let's not forget all the veterans who served in peace time and those who placed themselves into harms way in answering our country's call in the numerous other, sometimes forgotten, conflicts.
Together, all generations of veterans as a group represent our nation's indelible commitment to sustaining and advancing freedom and democracy.
Together, we are also a network of leadership, support, and inspiration for each other. Perhaps it's that sister or brother veteran who is the first person you see when you wake-up in that hospital bed, ready with a word of encouragement and vital help to obtain the quality health care and benefits you've earned to get back into life.
Veterans Day is also a day for opportunities, beyond this special moment in our annual calendar; opportunities to give back throughout the year to those few who have given so much for so many.
For those of us who have served and live with our sacrifices every day as paralyzed veterans, we need you now more than ever. We need you to help ensure that we don't just live free, but live free with dignity and empowerment. Here are just some ways you can help:
If you are grateful to our veterans and their families, please take a minute to thank them for their service. It means more than you might imagine. Your word of thanks could be the encouragement they need to take the next step to living an even more full and productive life.
If you're a leader, from our president and Congress to our mayors and county officials, use your leadership to do something good every day for veterans. We appreciate the fact that the administration and Congress have worked together for a historic budget increase for VA health care and the recent enactment of the Veterans Health Care Budget Reform and Transparency Act of 2009 which makes the health-care programs administered by VA an advance appropriation. This means that VA will get its funding on time, and our veterans will get the health care they have earned in a timely manner.
But we need to continue to make history for all our veterans. While the good news is that the number of troops coming home now with paralyzing injuries will be in the hundreds rather than the thousands as from previous wars such as Vietnam, the challenges they will face will be enormous. These brave men and women need our leaders to step-up more than ever to help and empower them.
If you are an architect or a builder, please make America more wheelchair accessible. Our veterans with disabilities who have fought for the land of the free, deserve a land that is completely barrier free.
If you are in a position to hire people, help veterans with disabilities return to the work force. Paralyzed Veterans of America's (www.pva.org) vocational rehabilitation program, a public-private partnership, is empowering hundreds of veterans with the services and counseling they need to get good jobs and careers, and matches them with employers who have vacancies.
This Veterans Day, as we honor all generations of veterans, please let's take a minute in our very busy lives to think about the opportunities to make every day, a day for veterans. We honor you for always caring about us.
Gene A. Crayton, U.S. Navy (Ret.)., is national president of Paralyzed Veterans of America.