SAN ANGELO, Texas – Spending time with family is a Christmas sentiment, but not everyone is afforded that luxury.
Russ Duerstine is no stranger to military service.
“I’m six years Air Force, all stateside. My dad was a tail-gunner in World War Two and my grandfather was wounded in the Argon forest in France in 1918. My son has also served, he’s done two combat tours,” Russ Duerstine with Concerned Veterans of America said.
Military life comes with a handful of sacrifices.
“Not being able to see our immediate family as you traditionally as many people do, creates some hardships, but at the same time it creates some advantages because we build new families,” Eric Emerson United states Air force said.
While Duerstine was never deployed in combat, his son was. This left Duerstine to watch after his grandchild. When his son returned, he saw firsthand how being away affects home life after service.
“Watching that awkwardness when they first come back and the child isn’t used to seeing mom or dad around, its heartbreaking,” Duerstine said.
The struggles don’t stop there. For decades veterans have continued to sacrifice at the hand of the Department of Veteran Affairs.
“Unfortunately, we’re doing a very poor job for way too many veterans and taking care of those health needs,” Duerstine said.
Duerstine says veterans are falling through the cracks specifically because of the V.A. Accountability Law and the lack of following through with promises made.
“This law was passed to help alleviate this problem, the V.A. is not following the law,” Duerstine said. “We’re seeing suicide rates skyrocket, mental health conditions that get delayed month after month after month when they could have seen a local doctor.”
We asked Duerstine’s opinion on how things could be fixed.
“It’s gonna take citizens stepping forward and say our set our heroes deserve the care they were promised the care they’ve earned,” Duerstine said.
Russ Duerstine says his love of grassroots politics and veterans motivates him to keep fighting and that anyone can take part in helping out too.