Yesterday was Veterans Day and the Capital Region did its share of celebrating, with ceremonies in Schenectady, Albany, Glenville, Amsterdam and elsewhere. That’s fine and appropriate, but the real measure of honoring vets for their service isn’t in the parades and speeches, but in the concern that we show for them and their problems every day. Fortunately, that concern seems to be growing.
The problems by now are well known. They include high rates of joblessness, homelessness, alcohol and drug abuse, domestic violence and suicide. But there are now programs and policies, both public and private, to address these issues.
One example of a public policy is the referendum New York state voters approved last week giving preference to disabled vets (who have a jobless rate of 12.5 percent compared with the 7.3 percent national average) in civil service hiring. On the private side is a national employment initiative by major companies like General Electric, which last year committed to hiring 5,000 vets by 2017.
There are also some noteworthy local efforts to help veterans suffering from psychological problems like depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. One is a state-funded peer-to-peer mentoring program in Saratoga County, one of only four such programs in the state. Another is the nonprofit Saratoga Warhorse program, which teaches vets to care for retired racehorses. Connecting to a sensitive animal requires a certain gentleness and emotional openness, and has been shown to be therapeutic.
And, finally, Homeward Bound Adirondacks, a regional, nonprofit effort based in Saranac Lake that aims to help returning veterans reintegrate with retreats, recreation, treatment and training. The organization’s motto, “it’s not charity, it’s our duty,” is more than just a clever turn of phrase. It shows a proper appreciation for what vets have done for us, the sacrifices they have made and continue to make.