Veterans Day is Friday, Nov. 11. It is a day to honor all who served in the U.S. armed forces and made sacrifices for America. Loss of health was one such sacrifice. For many, the price of that sacrifice was mesothelioma.
Mesothelioma is a cancer that initially strikes the linings of the lungs, heart and abdomen before spreading throughout the body.
Mesothelioma is caused by contact with industrial materials or finished products containing the toxic mineral asbestos. Men and women who served in the military between World War II and the first Gulf War were often exposed to asbestos.
The risk was highest for those who served in the Navy and Coast Guard, and were assigned duty aboard ships.
Asbestos was used throughout Navy and Coast Guard ships to prevent fires and contain high temperatures. As a result, you could find plenty of asbestos in gun turrets and magazines, in the engine room and galley — even in crew quarters.
This put sailors and Coast Guardsmen in near-constant contact with asbestos. But members of the Army, Marines and Air Force also were exposed to asbestos in barracks, offices, hangars and motor pools.
The History of Veterans Day
It wasn’t well known that asbestos exposure causes mesothelioma back when the country first decided to set aside a day to honor veterans.
The history of Veterans Day in America begins with the end of World War I. The warring nations had made an agreement to lay down their weapons on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of that year — in other words, at 11 a.m. on Nov. 11, 1918.
The word they used for this cease-fire was “armistice.” President Woodrow Wilson one year later designated Nov. 11 as Armistice Day and urged America to reflect on the bravery of our soldiers who fought in World War I.
However, Armistice Day didn’t become a legal holiday until 1938. In 1954, Congress voted to change the name from Armistice Day to Veterans Day. This was done to include all who ever wore an American military uniform.
In 1968, Congress wanted to make Veterans Day an even more prominent occasion by turning it into a three-day-weekend holiday. That meant requiring Veterans Day to always fall on a Monday.
It turned out that a lot of people were upset about this change because it ruined the tradition of a Nov. 11 celebration. The first time they celebrated Veterans Day as a three-day weekend holiday it fell on Oct. 25.
Congress a few years later moved Veterans Day back to Nov. 11. It’s been on that date ever since 1978.
Help for Vets with Mesothelioma
Nov. 11 is a good time to remember that veterans must seek medical attention if they have mesothelioma. They should seek medical attention even if they just think they might have mesothelioma.
The Veterans Administration (VA) is one place where they can turn for help. The VA provides medical treatment for mesothelioma.
The VA also offers financial assistance for veterans trying to live with mesothelioma or other asbestos diseases.
There’s a process you have to go through to receive financial help from the VA. Part of it involves filling out forms.
Another part of it involves providing evidence that shows where and how you were exposed to asbestos during your military service.
The evidence also has to include medical proof that you have mesothelioma or an asbestos-related disease.
You can apply for this help online. Visit the Veterans Administration’s eBenefits page for more information.