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Veterans need us more than athletes

By Amanda Aylwin, Sports Editor

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Every day I see signs, bumper stickers, even t-shirts that say “Support the Troops.” But what is really being done to support them?

Then I see signs, bumper stickers and t-shirts, among many other things, showing ‘support’ for our favorite teams and athletes. We all know what is being done to support their high-paying contracts.

Athletes make millions to entertain us, to wear certain name brands, to shoot commercials for Wheaties.  But it’s the veterans who fought, some for most of their lives, for these luxuries.

I believe this is a big problem in this country. The people who fight for our freedoms are at the bottom of the pay list, while athletes who entertain us by playing games for a living are making the big bucks. Even worse, some of these athletes spend more time on the bench than on the courts, and they are still making more money than our top active military members.

Some of the highest paid athletes are making upwards of $70 million a year, while a friend of mine, a sergeant in the marines, only earns $34,722.

“If you didn’t retire and just did four years, you receive no payment, unless you have a disability. Mine is 20 percent because of my disability,” said Robert Sgt. Johnson.

“It is based on how much you made before you got out and the severity of the injury,” added Johnson, an electrical engineering major at Owens.

Another problem is that veterans are not properly integrated back into society, and they struggle to find places to live and jobs to support their families.

According to Veteran’s Inc., there are many other reasons they struggle:

  • Lack of income due to limited education
  • Lack of transferable skills from military to civilian (this is especially true of younger veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan)
  • Combat-related physical health issues and disabilities
  • Substance abuse problems that interfere with job retention
  • Weak social networks due to problems adjusting to civilian life
  • Lack of services.

There are many outreach programs for shelters, clinics and food banks, but are these services enough for our homeless veterans? There are services that can be found in Massachusetts, Connecticut, Vermont and Maine, as well as here in Ohio, that provide veteran housing programs. Information can be found on veteransinc.org.

Did you know that one out of every five veterans suffer from PTSD when they return from war? Unfortunately, the Veteran’s Administration is backed up, and paperwork takes so long to process, which leaves veterans suffering for longer than they should have to before receiving proper treatment. Yes, there are benefits for active duty military members, but those are gone once you are discharged, and the TRICARE program that is set up for retirees is paid out of pocket. It could be costly for a veteran who makes next to nothing when they retire.

While most professional athletes have a college degree to fall back on, at least veterans are offered the GI bill when they get out.

Sure, we are thankful for our athletes, but we should be especially thankful for our vets, who are willing to give their lives so we can be free to buy expensive game tickets and over-priced memorabilia. Though Johnson explained that veterans don’t necessarily want a thank you because they are just doing their jobs.

We as a country need to come together and step it up for our veterans. There are a lot of good programs for veterans, we have a lot of work ahead of us, and it all starts with putting our priorities in order.

We need to start helping the people who help protect us; not the ones who merely entertain us.

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