What Veterans Day Could Really Mean
By David Gottlieb
When I was growing up, we didn’t know much about Uncle Alan. My father’s cherished younger brother and only sibling died in Pensacola, Florida, while in training to be a Navy fighter pilot. Part of the reason we didn’t know much about him was that his memory simply made my father too upset to even speak. There were photos, of course, of Uncle Alan in his dashing white uniform, and with a college girlfriend, and as a child, chasing after my father. But the narrative of his promising life cut short, and the veritable hole it left in my father’s heart, meant that Uncle Alan was permanently enshrined in silent reverence.
My father served a stint overseas, and returned as both pacifist and a proud veteran. He felt that war was an abomination, but also that the women and men he had served with were brave, upstanding individuals who had made great sacrifices to preserve our freedoms.
Veterans Day summons thoughts of those who, like my uncle, died in service to their country. But it also is the opportunity to sharpen our focus on those who, like my father, served and transitioned out of active duty. Today, such veterans suffer disproportionately from society’s most significant ills: poverty, homelessness, drug addiction, stress and trauma, and unemployment, to name a few. At Full Circle, we believe that veterans who need and deserve supportive services, and decent, affordable rental housing, are individuals deserving of dignity and community. That’s why we’re developing communities like the Pearl Street Commons in McHenry, where units will be reserved for veterans and their families, and where supportive services, targeted to those veterans, will be offered.
Today, we honor our veterans – not only with pageantry and solemnity, but with the promise of dignity and community that they, and indeed all Americans, deserve.
David Gottlieb served as founding executive director of Full Circle Communities, Inc., from 2002 to 2017.