Attorney General Mark R. Herring didn’t draw a crowd on Monday when he dropped in at the Loudoun Department of Veterans Services office in Ashburn to deliver some of the first copies of a newly published legal resource guide aimed at helping those who served and their families.
Perhaps viewed as minor, the effort is illustrative of the significant shift in the attention being given to veterans’ needs.
After decades of relative peace following Vietnam, the nation’s veterans support system became an afterthought to controlling the purse strings and a disgrace to those paying attention. Today, the nation’s political leaders more frequently are stepping up to address the impacts that come with the nation’s longest period of military combat. But it has been slow going.
This summer’s opening of the Ashburn vets center is another recent example of the effort to more effectively reach out to those who seldom ask for help and to address criticisms that, when they do ask, the veterans are too often mired in paperwork, benefit battles and frustration. While some national and state leaders have long acknowledged that moral failure, many more lacked the fortitude to commit the funding and manpower needed to adequately address the needs. Those needs will only grow as combat continues and the challenges of treating the servicemen and servicewomen who return with physical and emotional trauma increase.
It’s not just government work. Two Loudoun nonprofits are among the private sector entities going to extraordinary lengths to improve the lives of wounded warriors. HeroHomes in Purcellville is marshalling local resources in a way that rivals much bigger national organizations to build homes for injured veterans. And in Bluemont, the Boulder Crest Retreat has expanded its role from offering a respite for those recovering at institutions such as Walter Reed Hospital to become a cutting-edge treatment center for those coping with the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder.
There is more to be done. Amid the increasingly bitter sparing between those promoting the country’s deep political divide, we cannot lose focus on the needs of the men and women who were called to defend the freedoms that allow those debates to occur.