GUEST

Oklahoma veterans deserve access to top-quality care

By Senators James Lankford (R-OK) and Jim Inhofe (R-OK)

and Jim Inhofe (R-OK)

Dave Granlund cartoon on veterans' service

Veterans Day marks an important moment each year when we make sure those who’ve worn the cloth of our nation know how much we appreciate all they’ve done for us.

Thank you.

Most Oklahoma veterans we meet and personally thank humbly shrug off the “thank yous” from friends, family and even strangers and say they were just doing their job to serve our country. But it is important that we still say thank you and that they still hear our gratitude.

The mothers, fathers, daughters and sons who’ve put their lives on the line to protect our freedom and our way of life need to hear our thanks, and those closest to them like their children and their spouses need to hear the nation recognize the sacrifice from of all of them.

The next time you see a veteran out and about in your community — whether on Veterans Day or any other day — take the time to demonstrate our Oklahoma Standard to them and/or their families and take the time to hear their stories and learn from their experiences.

These patriots know how important our values are as a nation. They have personally defended them.

The most important thing we can do for our heroes is stand up for them and take care of them after their service, as we promised. Many veterans have physical wounds and injuries that require extensive care now and later. But other veterans need care for wounds we can’t see.

We have learned more as a nation about how important it is to care for veterans’ mental and behavioral health needs as well as their physical health needs.

Facing the enemies of our freedom on the battlefield and experiencing the daily threats to their lives to protect our families are burdens few understand other than those who have personally lived it.

We should ensure our veterans have access to health care choices so they can have the right doctors and medical professionals to meet their needs without having to drive halfway across the state. Veterans’ families should have the resources they need to care for their loved ones and help them navigate decisions about their care.

Approximately 18 veteran suicides occur each day. We must continue to stand with our heroes who may experience suicidal ideation or self-harm and make sure we appropriately address their mental health needs swiftly and effectively early on.

Help starts when our families and friends listen, so please stay engaged with the veterans in your life.

We recently broke ground in Tulsa on the newest VA medical center and an expansion of behavioral health services in Muskogee.

The state-of-the-art facilities will ensure veterans and their families have top-quality care options close to home. Eastern Oklahoma is home to more than 115,000 veterans who deserve the best options for health care.

Once completed, the new and renovated facilities will bring more advancements to help veterans achieve their health goals and give their families the options that best suit them.

We have numerous nonprofits and faith-based initiatives in our state to help veterans in need. But the first line of defense to care for anyone in our nation is our families. They know that Veterans Day is well placed to help kick off the holiday season because it brings our families into focus.

If you know a veteran, don’t just wait until Veterans Day each year to reach out to them. Make sure they know you care.

Give your time or resources to the organization of your choice that serves veterans year-round. These organizations can help fill the gaps for a veteran in your family and community.

They took care of us, so let’s take care of them each day. Remember the sacrifice of our veterans and their families as we keep working hard together to find practical ways to care for our vets and to say thank you.

A grateful nation rightfully remembers your service and sacrifice.