Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Failing our Veterans

Every member of Congress, minus a very few such as Senator Webb of Virginia, should be ashamed. Not just privately or personally, but publically, in front of all Americans. Why? They have failed our veterans. There is no two ways to put it. While they've extolled war and the soldiers, they haven't extolled even a thank you beyond the cursory political rhetoric for the veterans.

And now, after Senator Webb steered the passage of the new Veterans Bill, the VA itself first balked at the provisions, then contracted out the work, then backed down in the face of criticism - remember the VA is under the White House, specificially Cheney's idea which is hide all the veterans, especially the dead and permanent disabled from the public, and then agreed to August, 2009 for the new bill.

But it will be 8 years too late for the veterans of Afghanistan and 6-plus years for the veterans of Iraq. Congress has not stepped up to date working for veterans of these wars, not with benefits, job/career protections, and medical services. They treated them as throwaways, come home and be forgotten.

Even the Vietnam veterans, despite the public abused, got more then than veterans get now. I got two degrees with mine on a monthly stipend. Now it doesn't do that, just the immediate college expenses, provided you contribute your share. And many of the veterans of these wars were jettisoned by the military to wait many months before they learned they lose their benefits and access to medical services with only a small disability stipend.

And we know the reservists and National Guard veterans were simply treated for the initially injuries and released back to their units, with little to show beyond the experience and wounds. Any wonder many of the veterans of these wars aren't enamored at war and the members of Congress?

Any wonder why there is a fairly sharp divide between the veterans depending on the war when you served? Any wonder why many pre-Vietnam veterans support McCain and espouse war as the solution to international relations? And the Vietnam and later vets don't? It's not unanimous within each group but the majority agree.

Any wonder why men who haven't served love war and those who served don't? Those who haven't served don't have that experience and the reality of being a veteran, whether who survived intact or not. Those who haven't served are happy to extol the virtues of war and the willingness to direct others to go in the place and with their believe it's right and just.

But it's not and neither. If you can't stand to serve, you don't have the right to argue for a war. It's about being a veteran and honoring your country with your service. And yes, it's that simple. And Congress should heed that and stand up for the veterans with real, productive action, not political rhetoric, which doesn't pay the bills, comfort the families, nor fix the damage done by war.

Thank you Senator Webb for your work on our behalf.


Unknown said...

I agree with you whole-heartedly. Like you said, if we're not willing to stand up and serve, than we can't argue to go to war. Well said. I found a post about Vietnam vets that I think you'd enjoy reading. Thought I'd share:

WSR Photography said...

Thanks, I'll look the book up. I served 1969-73 and lucked out to avoid Vietnam but friends then and later didn't. A friend (Marine) could easily agree with the description (link and book).

It's also amazing numbers of the men during the Vietnam-era who served, those who were in Vietnam and those who were in combat in Vietnam. Although small in percentage, huge in importance.

And sadly the numbers today are lower today (both current wars) but their importance greater, which is why veterans today need and deserve more than we got.

It isn't about patriotism - we're all patriots, but the old adage of honor and duty to your country and the willingness to sacrifice your time and your life if necessary.

Surely Congress can see that? But then they haven't to date except a few.