07/29/2010 11:25 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Caring for Our Veterans

Today is a national tragedy. Tomorrow will be a national tragedy. The day after tomorrow will also be a tragedy for America because eighteen veterans kill themselves every day -- a figure that represents twenty percent of the suicides in this country. Veterans constitute twenty-three percent of this nation's homeless population. Veterans represent nine percent of America's population.

These numbers barely begin to scratch the surface of the hardships we place upon our nation's military and their families, but they are outrageous nonetheless.

The bravest and most courageous act I can imagine is the willingness to put one's life on the line for something larger than oneself. My heroes -- men and women such as Martin Luther King Jr, Gandhi, and Rachel Corrie who help guide me as I march forward with my life -- are largely comprised of those who shared this trait. As such, our combat veterans are my heroes too, and the failure of our system to care for the mental health of veterans is a stain on America's honor and reputation.

I would be remiss if I failed to point out that this need not be the case for so many of our veterans. The Iraq War was a war of choice. We should never choose war when there are other options on the table. Although there are many reasons I am challenging Steny Hoyer, I can promise that if he had possessed the courage to vote with the majority of House Democrats against the war, I would not be challenging him today. Unfortunately he chose to put politics ahead of the lives of our men and women in uniform.

Numerous voters have told me that Iraq is old news or that a lot of other congressmen voted for the war too, so I should just cut old Steny some slack. 18 veterans kill themselves every day and countless other will go to sleep tonight in a park or a prison. Where is their slack? I can not blind myself to his selfish vote to go to war in Iraq as so many selfless veterans suffer. I can not put Hoyer's vote to unnecessarily invade Iraq in the rear-view mirror as troops continue to fight and die there. If we don't hold our elected officials accountable for one of the biggest blunders in America's history, what is the point of having a democracy?

However (and here is the biggest point of this editorial), regardless of the validity of going to war, we, as a nation, have a responsibility to care for those that we send into battle. Let's embrace a culture of support and provide the necessary resources to ensure that our combat veterans are fully and healthily integrated back into domestic life.

Andrew Gall
Democratic Candidate for Congress (MD-05)

Subscribe to the Politics email.
How will Trump’s administration impact you?