Campaign Wants ‘Veteran’ Put Back in Veterans Day

WASHINGTON, Oct. 13, 2011 — A new cam­paign is work­ing to put the “vet­er­an” back into Vet­er­ans Day and to ral­ly pub­lic aware­ness of the sac­ri­fices made by injured vet­er­ans and their care­givers.

The Wound­ed War­rior Project kicked off “Believe in Heroes,” which focus­es pri­mar­i­ly on wound­ed vet­er­ans from Iraq and Afghanistan and their care­givers, on the 10th anniver­sary of 9/11 ter­ror attacks. The cam­paign will con­tin­ue through Nov. 11, Vet­er­ans Day, said Jonathan Sul­li­van, exec­u­tive vice pres­i­dent of the non­prof­it orga­ni­za­tion.

“Vet­er­ans Day has become a nation­al hol­i­day that most Amer­i­cans give a cur­so­ry moment of thought to before going on with their day,” said Steve Nardizzi, the Wound­ed War­rior Project’s exec­u­tive direc­tor.

Vet­er­ans will be rec­og­nized at NASCAR races, NCAA and NFL games as part of the cam­paign, Sul­li­van said. Two recent 8‑kilometer events spon­sored through the cam­paign drew 1,245 peo­ple in Jack­sonville, Fla., and 65 in Seat­tle, he added, and the next 8k walk or run will take place Oct. 15 in Char­lotte, N.C.

Regard­less of how peo­ple show sup­port, he added, the intent of the cam­paign is clear. “Believe in Heroes is a call to action,” he said, to rec­og­nize the mean­ing of Vet­er­ans Day, and to sup­port the needs of wound­ed war­riors and their care­givers.

From the ear­li­est stages of the Wound­ed War­rior Project, Sul­li­van said, there was con­cern about the sac­ri­fices care­givers would make to care for their wound­ed war­riors. “Once the most trau­mat­ic of injured war­riors are out of the hos­pi­tal and back home,” he added, “the care­giv­er can be in for a long road ahead.”

Engag­ing fam­i­lies and care­givers is essen­tial to help­ing war­riors make the tran­si­tion back to life after they’re injured, Sul­li­van said, not­ing that com­bat injuries affect both the war­rior and the fam­i­ly.

The idea for the cam­paign stemmed from what Sul­li­van said seemed to be dwin­dling pub­lic inter­est in the sig­nif­i­cance of Vet­er­ans Day. “Very few peo­ple pause Nov. 11 and reflect on the sac­ri­fices our vets made on behalf of us,” he said, and he expressed the hope that the two-month cam­paign to raise sup­port and aware­ness of the wound­ed, their care­givers and all U.S. vet­er­ans would cre­ate a groundswell of inter­est that will repeat year after year, every Vet­er­ans Day.

But Sul­li­van said he won’t stop there. Like the year-round cam­paign for breast can­cer aware­ness that inten­si­fies with Nation­al Breast Can­cer Aware­ness Month in Octo­ber, Sul­li­van said, he envi­sions year-round “Believe in Heroes” aware­ness that cul­mi­nates in a cam­paign from Sept. 11 to Nov. 11 each year.

“The pub­lic would be remind­ed of how much our wound­ed war­riors sac­ri­ficed on the bat­tle­field for us,” he said.

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)