Today we join with the rest of the country in honoring the men and women who have served in the military, as well as those who continue to serve.
The number of women veterans who are homeless has doubled over the last decade to 6,500, NPR reported. Most of them are under the age of 35, an indication of how many women are serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. Re-acclimating to civilian life can be difficult, and sometimes female veterans are hesitant to turn to the male-dominated Veterans’ Administration for help. “The groups that [the VA] did have around the area were almost all men,” one female veteran told NPR. “And most of them did not believe that women were combat veterans. Most of them didn’t believe women were veterans period — that we don’t serve that much of a purpose in the military. And definitely in a combat zone.”
A year in Afghanistan spent detecting bombs has given members of Oregon Army National Guard’s 162nd Engineer Company a new appreciation of life, as this story in the Oregonian illustrates. On one day in March, two sergeants survived explosions from four separate improvised explosive devices, or IEDs. Both Staff Sgt. Joe Seeger and Sgt. Brandon Bertilson were awarded the Bronze Star. The article notes: “Among the 222 awards members of the unit received were 62 Army Commendation Medals, four mechanics badges, five Purple Hearts and 14 Bronze Stars.”
Vanity Fair profiled Staff Sgt. Salvatore Giunta, the first living recipient of the Medal of Honor since Vietnam, in its December issue. As a member of the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team, First Platoon, Battle Company, in Afghanistan in October 2007, Giunta saw two enemy combatants carrying off his close friend, Sgt. Josh Brennan. Giunta shot and killed one of the men and wounded the other, rescuing his friend, who had been hit eight times and died at a U.S. base the next day. Says Giunta: “Every single person that I’ve been with deserves to wear it, deserves to . . .They are just as much of me as I am. This isn’t a one-man show.”
Near the Kandahar Air Field, soldiers play hockey, substituting sneakers and a ball for skates and a puck, Stars and Stripes reported. The rink, which was completed in 2006 mostly by Canadian engineers, has a floor rather than ice, and has become a central park of non-combat life for many serving in Kandahar. There is now a Kandahar Hockey League, with two four-month seasons a year. Out of 24 teams, only one is made up of American soldiers, with most of the others composed of Canadians. But the rink and the league has attracted attention from the rest of the hockey world: Last spring, former National Hockey League players brought the Stanley Cup for a visit.