The United States is home to more than 20 million veterans. About 4.4 million of them receive a disability pension, meaning they were permanently harmed and must live with the consequences of their service to their country.
“I got shot with an AK-47 in my right arm,” said Delbert Marion, who from 1967 to 1972 was a Marine in Vietnam. “I went over there right-handed, and when I came back, I had to do things left-handed. I went over there as a kid and came back a grown man. Vietnam changed my life.”
Marion became a cop and served as police chief in East St. Louis, Brooklyn and Washington Park, and was an East St. Louis city councilman. Now he is serving other veterans through a program using art as therapy for war wounds.
A small group called Visions for Vets currently offers free art workshops for veterans at Fontbonne University in St. Louis. It is intended to help deal with anger, depression and other wounds suffered by veterans.
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It wants to expand to the metro-east because there is a heavy concentration, 50,000 veterans, associated with Scott Air Force Base. It needs a space, art supplies, money, volunteers, mentors, food donations and other sponsors so local vets have an outlet closer to home.
But regardless of whether anyone helps the effort, these wounded warriors will find a way.
“They don’t want sympathy,” said Navy vet David Jackels. “They don’t want help. They want to go someplace where they’re accepted, where they can actually accomplish something on their own.”
Even if they don’t want help, they deserve thanks and support for their efforts. Veterans Day is when we acknowledge their sacrifice, and offer gratitude — especially to the Vietnam vets denied a proper homecoming.