By helping veterans, we help Alexandria grow

By helping veterans, we help Alexandria grow

By John D. Sims, Alexandria

Gen. George Washington, our nation’s first veteran and a proud Alexandrian, intuitively said, “The willingness with which our young people are likely to serve in any war, no matter how justified, shall be directly proportional to how they perceive veterans of early wars were treated and appreciated by our nation.”

With our all-volunteer force, this statement is more important today than in the past.

As our post-9/11 wars come to a close, and as our military forces draw down, greater numbers of young veterans will return to communities across America, including Alexandria. The media may emphasize the scars these men and women bear, so we can easily miss the exceptional skills, talents and strengths these returning veterans offer.

America has a moral obligation to care for and reintegrate those who bore the weight of our national defense. But we also have an opportunity to capitalize on the abilities that these amazing — though often anonymous — men and women bring from their service.

Alexandria has a rich and unique history of bringing home veterans and strengthening our community. Just as Washington and our first veterans returned home from war to their family and friends, today’s veterans return home to theirs.

And like their predecessors, these veterans are future businesspersons, government leaders, educators and contributors to our community.

On November 12, Mayor Bill Euille proclaimed 2014 as the “Year of the Veteran.” In the ensuing months, a group of community and business leaders — in collaboration with veteran groups and local residents — have taken the initiative to reinforce this proclamation with tangible actions.

For Alexandria’s veterans, these actions aim to honor their service while strengthening our community. Throughout this year and beyond, we will honor veterans for their example of selfless service and contributions to our nation’s security.

At the same time, we will find ways to improve and strengthen our city by integrating veterans and their families into all aspects of life.

Through cross-community efforts, several events are in the works, including the GI Film Festival in May, Memorial Day activities to honor military families and integrating veteran groups into community service projects like Spring for Alexandria. Additionally, the Alexandria Veteran Business Enterprise Center continues to serve as a rally point to help veterans succeed in business in our city.

In short, the Year of the Veteran is a call to action for all Alexandrians. If we are to sustain our national security through volunteers, as Washington suggests, we must recognize our responsibility to our veterans.

At the same time, we have a tremendous opportunity to reconnect all veterans to Alexandria. Through your support and their contributions, we will honor their service and strengthen our community during the Year of the Veteran and beyond.