Editorial: Don't let CT veterans become invisible

The Pearl Harbor Memorial Bridge in New Haven, Conn., will be illuminated in red, white and blue in recognition of Veterans Day. 

The Pearl Harbor Memorial Bridge in New Haven, Conn., will be illuminated in red, white and blue in recognition of Veterans Day. 

Connecticut Department of Transportation

Our veteran population in Connecticut is vanishing.

A decade ago, there were some 218,000 veterans living in the state. The U.S. Census Bureau put that figure at 168,000 in 2021.

It mirrors a national decline, which dropped from 22,676,149 in 2011 to about 19 million today.

The diminishing veteran population is impossible to notice in our day-to-day lives, but we need to pay more attention to those who serve our nation. The problem with Veterans Day each Nov. 11 is that it sets aside a single 24-hour period to honor Americans who deserve our gratitude every day.

The day is a nod to the Allies and the Germans signing an agreement to cease hostilities at the 11th hour on the 11th day of November 1918 and end the so-called War to End All Wars.

Serendipitously, the holiday arrives just days after Election Day. It’s a timely opportunity for Americans to unite after the acrimony that divides voters. On Tuesday, many people opted for red or blue. On Nov. 11, we all wear the same colors.

Public events to honor veterans are vanishing as well, but that shouldn’t stop anyone from making a personal gesture to thank veterans. Veterans represent about 6 percent of Connecticut’s population, so the likelihood remains pretty high that they are among the people in our daily lives.

Every veteran has a story to tell. We just have to be willing to listen.

They are not all easy stories to hear. Suicide rates among combat veterans remain troubling, and too many veterans resist seeking available mental health services.

Connecticut has enhanced its serves for veterans in recent history. Former Gov. Dannel Malloy’s administration worked to make Connecticut the first state to eliminate chronic homelessness among vets.

And the Connecticut Department of Veterans Affairs is only 35 years old. Today, it offers veterans rehabilitative services, substance abuse treatment and hospice care. For those looking to support veterans, it welcomes volunteers.

Among the agency’s services is a residential program for low-income veterans. As too many leaders in Connecticut towns put up walls to block affordable housing, they should remember that veterans are among the many state residents struggling to find a place to live.

Connecticut’s tributes to veterans include the illumination of the Pearl Harbor Memorial Bridge in New Haven (aka, the Q Bridge) in red, white and blue lights on Thursday and Friday. It’s a reminder that displaying the flag on this day remains a silent way to salute veterans.

“We have an obligation to support our veterans, whether it be through quality healthcare, education, workforce training, affordable housing, and any other resources needed to live and work outside of the military,” Gov. Ned Lamont said in a news release. “They made good on their promise to serve our nation, and it is our responsibility to be there for them. On this Veterans Day, I urge all Connecticut residents to thank the veterans who bravely and honorably served the United States.”

Our veteran population is vanishing, but we must ensure they do not become invisible.