FORT RUCKER, Ala. (May 9, 2013) -- George Washington said, "The willingness with which our young people are likely to serve in a war, no matter how justified, shall be proportional to how they perceive the veterans of earlier wars were treated and appreciated by their nation."

From the beginning, our founding fathers saw how perceptions shaped our military and our ability to defend our nation. The statement made by George Washington is no less true today than it was when our nation was first established.

Most people know that when the Vietnam veterans returned home from war and how badly they were treated upon their arrival. The returning vets did not deserve such a devastating return.

Hundreds of military men and women gave their lives and many thousands of others were wounded because they were asked by our government to go fight in Vietnam and surrounding countries. The men and women of the U.S. military never ask why; they just go and do their duty. They gave all they had and served with honor and valor, but they were still seen by some as vigilantes.

Fortunately, generations later, our brave young men and women still feel the call of duty and are willing to go whenever and wherever needed to serve our nation. But that might not always hold true. Little things that show appreciation for their selfless service mean a lot to our current and future Soldiers.

According to retired Maj. Gen. Sean J. Byrne, former commanding general of U.S. Army Human Resources Command, "Our nation and our Army owe a debt of gratitude to those Soldiers who volunteer to serve our country. Often that gratitude is best expressed when unit leaders give transitioning Soldiers the time they need and deserve to take advantage of the robust services that the Army Career and Alumni Program offers.

"All Soldiers deserve the best possible start in the civilian world when the time comes to leave the Army, and ACAP provides the knowledge and skills to smooth the way. There is no better recruiting influence in the community than a retiree or veteran whose Army experience includes being treated with respect and being supported even after making a decision to transition to civilian life."

President George W. Bush, during his inauguration speech in 2004, called the men and women who voluntarily agree to serve in the military during a period of war a hero. He said, in part, "We see America's character in our military, which finds a way or makes one. We see it in our veterans, who are supporting military Families in their days of worry. We see it in our young people, who have found heroes once again...."

Although today, while most Americans perceive all Soldiers to be heroes, some Soldiers in the supervisory chain don't always see it that way. Some supervisors, unfortunately, use the ACAP program only as a tool for good behavior instead of an earned benefit given by Congress and the Department of Defense to help all eligible Soldiers.

Therefore, some Soldiers are not allowed to take full advantage of the ACAP program to help them transition from the military successfully. Consequently, not all Soldiers have an equal chance for success when they leave the military.

Likewise, they don't leave with a favorable impression of the Army and chances are good that they won't help recruit other young men and women who are yet to become heroes.

Supervisors, please help all your eligible Soldiers by giving them the benefit of using the ACAP program to the maximum extent possible before they transition. It will reflect well on future generations of Soldiers; besides, under the VOW Act, it's the law! Encourage them to call the Fort Rucker ACAP Center at (334) 255-2558 or log on to https://www.acap.army.mil to register for and sign up for ACAP provided services.

Page last updated Thu May 9th, 2013 at 00:00