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Jefferson Barracks and John Cochran – a two-division facility in the St. Louis VAMC is being renovated for the new generation of vets.
As a veteran, I am grateful that so many of my countrymen —no matter their opinion on the war — readily thanked me for serving, and welcomed me home. Like many vets, I feel somewhat awkward accepting thanks for doing a job I love with people I admire.
One of the first things I did upon landing in the States was visit the wounded Marines at Bethesda Naval Hospital. Every one I spoke with that day, and those I’ve talked with since, tell the same story. They take pride in having served — it’s an essential part of their identity — and now that they’re home, they want to keep serving. One vet at Bethesda said, “I lost my legs. That’s all. I did not lose my desire to serve, or my pride in being an American.”
Wounded vets are an asset to this country and to our St. Louis community. They return from Iraq and Afghanistan with strength obtained through combat; and an even greater strength that comes from having learned to overcome and live with their disabilities.
One of my injured friends told me that the hardest day of his life was when he was medically discharged from the Navy, and told that he was “unserviceable.”
Our wounded and disabled vets are serviceable. When we say “thank you,” they are glad to hear it. But they must also hear: “We still need you.” When we challenge them to continue serving, we let them know we believe in them, and that we are glad to have their strength.
(The opinions expressed are not necessarily those of St. Louis Public Radio.)
Eric Greitens is a Navy SEAL and Chairman of the Center for Citizen Leadership, an organization that gives Fellowships to wounded and disabled veterans to begin new careers in public service.