As I sit and reflect on what we as Americans commemorate on Veterans Day, I ask myself, “what do the fireworks, the festive parties and parades mean?” What does this day represent for you?
Some might mention our First Amendment rights, freedom of religion, speech, press, assembly, and petition, all of which are valuable. But what other freedoms do we have, thanks to the veterans that fought for our freedoms? What about the freedom and right for veterans to be provided for?
What about the freedom to work and earn a livable wage to use to feed and shelter our loved ones and ourselves? Or the freedom to walk the streets without the fear of being unjustly harassed or arrested because we do or do not look a certain way?
Although the seizure of these rights is thought of as something foreign and unthinkable, thousands of individuals in the United States experience the injustice of having their basic human rights disregarded because of their social-economic status, as poor or homeless.
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After the Veteran's Day celebration is over, most of us drive to our homes and snooze in our comfortable beds. But for some, there is no permanent home to return to, maybe not even a friendly couch to relieve tired, blistered feet. Some are the very men and women who fought for our freedoms.
The homes of some of our vet friends on the streets look different. They may be more temporary or less sustainable. They may not provide necessary protection from the elements. They might not even be there when they return. The only solace available might look like a bench in a public park, a lonesome spot in the Green Swamp, or walking the streets all night, where there is little security and a large risk of arrest.
There may be no kitchen with a pantry of food to return to when hunger strikes. Each meal is a question mark; each day is uncertain. So, rather than perpetuate this exclusive freedom and only honor the rights of those who are labeled as worthy, let us as a community accompany one another with support and grace as we redefine what it really means to be American.
If we call this the land of the free and the home of the brave, let us be brave enough to fight for the freedom and equality of all people, including our precious veterans that fought for us.
The writer is a director of Brunswick County Streetreach, www.bcstreetreach.org.