Demas Craw, for whom our VA clinic is named, could be the poster child for grit.
He dropped out of Traverse City High School to enlist in World War I.
After the war, the Long Lake Township native rejoined the Army and worked his way into the officer ranks. He got into, and graduated from, West Point.
He eventually realized his dream of becoming a pilot, but an off-duty eye injury threw it for a loop.
But Craw pressed on. In 1940, Craw was “slightly wounded” in Cairo, Egypt, with the Royal Air Force. In the Greco-Italian War he reportedly came under fire 136 times and participated in 21 RAF bombing sorties. He was captured by the German army in 1941 in Greece, and later exchanged.
He got his colonel’s commission when the U.S. entered World War II.
It was Craw’s bolstering faith in an odds-against-them mission in North Africa to get the Vichy France regime to surrender that ensured its success.
Craw was killed instantly by a machine gun blast, but his companions pressed on, and France surrendered.
Craw posthumously won the Medal of Honor.
The military, and our culture at large, prizes the qualities of pressing on, grit and courage in the face of long odds. We need them to survive.
But when it comes to the unseen wounds of post-traumatic stress disorder, military sexual trauma and traumatic brain injury, our veterans tend to soldier on alone — often to their determent and that of their families.
Today we hope a new, expanded outpatient clinic at Chum’s Corners shows our veterans they’re not alone.
VA clinics are expanding across the state.
Jeff Konczak, one of the owners of KF Commercial Properties, told the Petoskey News this week that his company has worked on seven VA clinics including Alpena, Cheboygan, Cadillac, Clare, Lansing, Traverse City and Gaylord, which is slated to open in August.
Recent studies underscore the need for better treatment — as veterans are disproportionately at risk of death by suicide, homelessness and substance abuse.
These are part of the downward spiral that may start with trauma, according to Dr. Chrisanne Gordon of the Resurrecting Lives Foundation.
She too experienced TBI, describing it as a “dark disturbance of the brain, often causing blurred vision, memory and processing issues, depression and the dreadful feeling that a once-vigorous brain is running off the tracks.”
The fallout from a recent Iranian missile strike in Iraq illustrates the oft-misunderstood injury. President Donald Trump drew fire from veterans groups last week after calling the TBI injuries suffered by 34 military members “not very serious.”
But we are learning — in Iraq, there was immediate screening and diagnosis. HUD announced that veteran homelessness is down 14 percent in Michigan.
And today, we open a new facility with expanded capacity to better serve our veterans.
After the war, there is no need to soldier on alone.
Editor's note: This editorial was updated 01/31/20 to correct the military branch Craw served in to the U.S. Army.