On Memorial Day, Americans remember the servicemen and women who have fallen for their country.
Veterans Day is a time to thank living vets — and help those who have come home battered and broken, Morris County Sheriff James Gannon said Monday at a Veterans Day service on the historic Morristown Green.
“Military veterans are the noblest of our society. If you never sacrificed your own time and freedom as they have, you can’t fully understand what they’ve been through. But you can appreciate and support them,” Gannon said, on a sunny morning that felt more like early May than early November.
A bugler from Morristown High School played Taps, and an honor guard fired a rifle salute.
Veterans in bright red blazers listened to brief speeches from Morristown Mayor Tim Dougherty and Morris Township Mayor Jeff Grayzel.
Elected officials from both towns were sprinkled among the audience, which included county Prosecutor Fredric Knapp.
Sheriff says veterans deserve our help. Video by Bill Lescohier for MorristownGreen.com:
It’s impossible to imagine the nation’s fate without the sacrifices of the estimated 18.2 million veterans alive today, said Gannon, the keynote speaker, adding that U.S. forces have been deployed in combat zones almost continuously since George Washington’s Continental Army wintered in Morristown.
“How do we thank them? How can we help those veterans who may be homeless, who may be unemployed or suffer Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and other debilitating physical and psychological injuries?
“I suggest we open our heart,” the sheriff said, to government programs for veterans, and to nonprofits such as the American Legion — which turned 100 in March — and the Veterans of Foreign Wars. He also endorsed the Wounded Warrior Project, which helps veterans wounded in military action since 9/11.
Some 3.3 million Americans have served in the armed forces since the terror attacks of 2001. The death toll is 6,928, and nearly 53,000 have been wounded in action, Gannon said, citing figures from the Brookings Institution.
More than 380,000 U.S. military personnel have sustained traumatic brain injuries during this period, Gannon continued, quoting Department of Defense statistics.
“The toll on servicemen and women can be unbearable. And we must never forget that,” said Gannon, a Boonton resident re-elected for a second term last week.
Psychological scars are not limited to combatants returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. Grayzel mentioned Vietnam veterans still suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder–called “shell shock” when Veterans Day was known as Armistice Day, after World War I.
“I believe PTSD is real and much under-accounted -for amongst our veterans, and we need to acknowledge that. These veterans gave to us , and we need to give back to them, especially those that need our help,” the Morris Township mayor said.
‘PTSD is real,’ says Morris Township mayor. Video by Bill Lescohier for MorristownGreen.com:
One way to help veterans is to hire them.
The Sheriff’s Office employs 34 vets, “who bring an immeasurable level of discipline, leadership skills and inner strength,” Gannon said. His roster includes reservists called to military duty.
“I currently have four deployed in harm’s way right now. And I remember them in my prayers every day.”
MorristownGreen.com correspondent Bill Lescohier contributed to this report.