A Memorial Day Tribute – Are We Doing Enough?

By YeOldeScribe ~ May 30th, 2011 @ 8:08 pm

Holidays like these are special days for us here at Political Progressives. To some people, Memorial Day is just the first day off of work in the new year. To others, it’s all about the parades, or the grilling out with family. There’s certainly nothing wrong with these things, but if that’s all today is about for you, then we feel like you’re missing the point.

Memorial Day is about remembering those that have paid the ultimate sacrifice – gave their very lives – for this great nation. The very fact that we’ve had to send our sons, husbands and now daughters off to fight wars to win our freedom, preserve our nation and fight tyrannical world superpowers (twice) is sad enough, but the fact that millions breathed and bled their last so that we can enjoy the freedoms we do today should be enough to give anyone pause.

We at Political Progressives are not fans of war. We believe everything possible should be done to avert war, and that wars are mostly unnecessary and built on arrogance and superiority complexes. That being said, we have nothing but respect for the men and women who do serve in our armed forces. Everyone who does – from the Navy SEALS to the Coast Guard Reserve – deserves the respect and admiration of everyone who breathes in freedom every day here in the United States of America.

Throughout our history, we’ve dealt with how to honor our soldiers. Although awards and medals have been given out since our nation’s inception, the Congressional Medal of Honor is a relatively young concept – it originated in the Civil War, and it only became a distinguished medal in World War II. Since then, our nation’s highest military honor has been given out posthumously more often than not, and only one has been given to a living person since Vietnam. Although, since you have to do something like this to earn one, we can understand why most people don’t survive to see the day when they are immortalized with the blue-riboned medal.

During WWII, members of Congress came up with the great idea of honoring our returning soldiers with educational training and unemployment pay. Thus, the GI Bill was born, which provided full funding for any returning vet to go to school on the government’s dime as a way of saying “thanks”. The GI Bill also provided many different types of loans so those who served could start businesses and own homes. Since then, many changes have been made to the GI Bill, both expanding it and cutting it at different times.

But these things are largely unresponsive to the question we posed in the title – are we doing enough for our veterans? Are we currently giving them the proper care and respect they deserve for putting their very lives on the line so common people like us can live ordinary lives? Is it even possible to do “enough”?

The question itself is probably insulting. The idea that we can somehow repay a mother who gave up her son(s)/daughter(s) to the defense of the nation is an insult to their memory. How do you put a price tag on a life? How do you compensate a family who lost their father? Make no mistake, the men (and women) who go off to war are leaders of their families – they are mothers and fathers, sons and daughters. They are not just primary sources of incomes that can be replaced by money or benefits alone.

We can think of two specific instances where we as a country are definitely not doing enough to care for our veterans who survive war. First, let’s take a look at soldiers who are injured in combat.

The battlefield is a dangerous place, and in the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars alone, thousands of people who have gone to war give more than their time to the cause – they lose a limb or appendage in the line of service. Many times for these men and women, their lives are forever changed. When they eventually make it out of the hospital and back to their previous life, they may no longer be able to work in the factory where they’ve worked all their life, or they may need assistance that they didn’t need before. Those who suffer serious injury may require their houses to be completely rebuilt to accommodate their new needs. Such an example is found in SSgt. Forrest Perez, who was injured not in combat, but during a hit-and-run car accident. Through the generosity off the Heroes at Home project, Perez and his family are having their house rebuilt from the ground up to accommodate him, since he is required to spend most of his time in a hospital-like bed or a specially designed wheelchair. We understand the difference between a car accident and being injured while on duty, but there’s thousands of examples of that too. Take a look at the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund, Operation Comfort, or the Aid for Wounded Warriors programs if you don’t believe us. (Also, if you have the financial resources to do so, we strongly encourage you to donate to these charities. Thousands of wounded vets need our help, so if you are able to give, please consider doing so.)

The fact that we rely on charities and non-profit groups to take care of those injured while on duty is abhorrent. We’re well aware that the military does provide some assistance, but it’s not enough. We need to do more to those that have given their very flesh and blood to the ideas that this country represents. They put their lives on the line for us. It’s the least we can do to make sure they’re taken care of when they return home and that they’re afforded the best medical care available.

Second, while it’s very important to care for our soilders’ physical health, their mental health is equally important. The Wounded Warrior Project does a great job of covering this issue and fighting for better care of veterans suffering from PTSD and other mental health issues. Chances are you know of someone who has served in our armed forces. Chances are also good that you know someone who served that had some kind of trouble adjusting back to civilian life. Maybe they had nightmares and trouble sleeping. Maybe the issues were more serious than that. Our writer worked with a vet while in college who eventually took his own life because he was unable to adjust. That cannot be allowed to happen. In 2008 it was estimated that 1,600 soldiers attempted to take their own lives, and a report by the Joint Chiefs of Staff said that with more men and women returning home from the battlefront, that number was only expected to rise. An excellent article by an Army Chaplain quoted a visitor to an Army Base as saying “I came away from my visit at Fort Hood a year ago thinking that PTSD and suicide were not a problem in the military but rather an epidemic. This war trauma is not only destroying the lives of our precious young fighting men and women, its aftermath is severely injuring the parents, spouses, children, relatives and friends of these soldiers.” The article continues to talk about what’s being done in the military in regards to mental health, but always comes to the same conclusion: But more is needed.

More is needed. That’s the simple truth. We’re not going to say that the US Government is being lazy on this or that they’re not respecting our service men and women once they take off the uniform and reach for blue jeans and a T-Shirt. That’s not true and not fair to the government – it does do a lot for the men and women who served.

But more is needed. And that’s all there is to it.

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1 Response to A Memorial Day Tribute – Are We Doing Enough?

  1. Scott Noren DDS

    With linited time to comment…I am a real Progressive running for US Senate and although I need massive Grassroots support in NY where I am running against a Wall-Street Democrat, I need many people, ANYWHERE in the US to support me whether it be by small donation (don’t want donations from bankers, Pharma, health insurance or gas/oil employees), or people tp network on the web for me by writing letters to newspapers and such. The book that is titled “When being right isn’t enough” by Paul Waldman is wrong at least in title…doing the right thing despite Party politics and not pandering to groups just to shmooze won’t help redirect this country in a Progressive direction…
    Scott Noren DDS
    US Senate candidate, NY 2012
    http://www.norenforsenate.com
    Democrat…no ties

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