Walking back to the office after a meeting this week (we meet a lot in Washington), I came to the corner next to the U.S. National Archives to wait for the crosswalk light to turn green and encountered the installation pictured here – two helicopters used in the Vietnam War – as part of an exhibit at the Archives opening on Veterans Day that documents issues surrounding the U.S. experience in Vietnam. Veterans in flight suits stood with the helicopters – they were in such deep conversations with eager visitors that I didn’t feel right interrupting, but clearly they had experience with these aircraft.
Vietnam veterans stand out in history often because of the controversy surrounding the war, and even so, the pictures painted in our history books can be oversimplified. Now we are deep into an era where many of the young adults planning their post-secondary future have never known the U.S. not to be in conflict; where decades of programs for veterans and military families have taken root throughout the country but many communities still need more bridges between military service and a successful civilian life. History has much to teach us about the complexities of the decisions to get involved in military conflicts.
No matter what we believe about military engagement, we can certainly come together in support of the individuals and families who risk everything to support the country. Last year Goodwill organizations served more than 60,000 military members and veterans and more than 24,000 military families with career readiness and transition support, mental health services, family financial preparation, education and career connections for veterans and military members and their families. I hope this week you’ll join us in showing your appreciation and support of the service and sacrifice veterans make by advocating to protect these programs that they need to succeed. If you want to let a lawmaker know more about your own experience serving in the military or transitioning to civilian life, share your story.