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Shifting the narrative: Secretary McCaffrey's message on Veterans that thrive in South Carolina

November 01, 2023

Secretary McCaffrey

Editorial Message from Secretary Todd B. McCaffrey

"Veterans Thrive Among Us"

Nearly 400,000 Veterans call South Carolina home. They served our nation in uniform in both peace and war. Some are still in their early 20s, many in their peak working years, others in their late 90s, and even a few centenarians are still with us. Collectively, they represent the best of our state and, counter to many of the prevailing narratives about Veterans, they are thriving! They are leaders in our communities, they are employees and business owners, and they sesdfrve as volunteers in our schools, places of worship, and social activities.

Veterans Day originated as Armistice Day commemorating the service and sacrifice of Americans in World War I. It became a federal holiday in 1938 and later, in the aftermath of World War II and the Korean War, was retitled as Veteran’s Day. November 11th recognizes the service and sacrifice of millions of American men and women who wore our nation’s cloth and then, on completion of their uniformed service, returned home. And today, now two years separated from the end of our longest war in Afghanistan, we continue the tradition of honoring the service and sacrifice of our nation’s warriors. They deserve our admiration and respect. 

For some military service resulted in seen and unseen wounds that continue to haunt them in civilian life. Those Veterans have earned, and deserve, much more than we can provide. Continued tragic statistics like rates of Veteran suicide, pervasive Veteran homelessness, and debilitating post-traumatic stress are reminders that our efforts to mitigate these struggles need continued focus and support. The U.S. Department of Veterans’ Affairs, myriad non-profits, and others, including the South Carolina Department of Veterans’ Affairs remain committed to combatting these challenges.

However, as we work to lessen the burdens military service placed on these struggling Veterans, we should bear in mind that so many others, a majority of Veterans, transitioned from uniformed service better for that experience. Military service propelled these men and women to success in academia, business, government, and so many other endeavors. Like those who struggle, they too often faced challenges but, like so many other Americans, they have been able to conquer the obstacles placed in their path and thrive.

sfsdfFor those who have not served, and for those who are influencers to those who might serve, the well-meaning but often disproportionate focus on struggling Veterans sends unintended messages. If young people, or those who influence young people, associate military service with negative outcomes who could blame them for not choosing to serve? Current military recruiting challenges might have some correlation with this drumbeat of largely negative messaging.

Veterans must take on the challenge to balance this narrative to Americans who have not experienced the benefits of military service.  Like all worthwhile endeavors, military service entails risks, including the risk that service could lead to some of the challenges highlighted above. However, for the vast majority of us who have served, we are better parents, citizens, employees, and leaders for having had the privilege of being called Soldier, Marine, Sailor, Airman, Coastguardsman, or Guardian. We are thriving today because of our service yesterday.

As we reflect this Veteran’s Day on those who have served, remember and support those who continue to struggle. But, as you remember and support those who struggle, know that there are Veterans among you who have leveraged their military service to be better following that service. They are the majority of America’s and South Carolina’s Veterans, and they are thriving!