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Memorial Day--The War Comes Home

Posted on 2008.05.25 at 03:58
A few days ago, someone who means the world to me was deployed in this God-awful “War on Terror,” and will soon arrive in the Persian Gulf.   The threat to life and limb is very real with what he does in the military. It’s been one of the hardest times in my life--soul wrenching, and heart-breaking.   My grandfather served in WWII, and my father is a veteran of Vietnam who served before I was born. He suffered for years from the psychological wounds of what he experienced there, sometimes waking up screaming from nightmares of rats devouring the bodies of his long-deceased friends, and sometimes from dreaming the same rats were eating him alive.  
Several weeks ago I saw a young man where I work, a soldier and regular customer at my brick-and-mortar, who I hadn’t seen in over two years. He came back from Iraq in a wheelchair with a severe mentally disability, and I started to weep as I watched his mother push him through aisles of books that he could no longer read.   Today on CNN, they were showing photos of soldiers who had died in Iraq, and taped memorials by their families. I couldn’t watch for long--my tears overwhelmed me.   
Some staggering, and tragic statistics which I gathered from various websites after a cursory search on Google: as of May 20th, at least 4,079 U.S. military service members have died in the current Iraq war, and 503 U.S. military fatalities have been confirmed in Afghanistan. Over 68,000 have been injured, with over 9,000 of those requiring an airlift. Of these, over a thousand required a major amputation. 52,000 soldiers have been treated for a mental health crisis, and over 34,000 have been diagnosed with war-related psychiatric disorders. These numbers pale compared to the number of Iraq’s killed, with estimates starting at 151,000, and probably several times that number, according to a recent article in the Washington Post.
On this Memorial Day, take a moment to remember the men and women have given their lives in the service of our country, and the families and friends that grieve for them. Regardless of your political stance, honor their memories. This day is about more than barbeques, getting drunk and picnics.   Remember to say a prayer for all those brave men and women serving in the military, who work in so many different capacities because they truly believe in defending our nation--in truth, justice, honor and sacrifice. And remember all those who love these men and women, and embrace them and support them in whatever way you can.   So many are desensitized, so cynical, but let these men and women overseas be real for you, and sacrifice your love and time for them. It’s the least you can do.
And if you’re really motivated, write to your senators and representatives. Tell them to support the new G.I. bill; ask them to pass legislation for better veterans health coverage, mental health care, and government payment for that care if they wish to seek private treatment. The VA hospitals are overwhelmed, and it takes some returning vets months to get the mental health care they need. Tell your legislators to write legislation to increase minimum salaries for enlisted service members. A MINIMUM 10% increase for all ranks would be a good start, though 20% seems reasonable. Hard to believe, but for those in the lower enlisted ranks, that’s only four to eight thousand dollars more a year!   Those in the lower ranks, the vast majority of soldiers seeing combat, are bringing in between 20K and 25K a year. In California, that’s poverty wages. Many are making less than they could working at your local video store. They’re paying with their blood and sweat and too-often their lives. They deserve so much better, and sadly the President who called them to duty, and asked for another $200 billion to continue this war, is opposed to increasing their wages and is opposed to the new G.I. bill. It’s a travesty that he doesn’t honor those who have sacrificed so much, and showed them the appreciation they deserve.
Remember. Honor. Love. Act. You have a sacred duty.


Steve Prosapio
no_bull_steve at 2008-05-27 17:05 (UTC) (Link)

prayers and hope...

I hope your friend comes back safe AND sound. I have a close friend there as well. The type of man who, if lost or disabled, would leave a scar in the hearts of all who know him.

If ever you want or need to really cry, go to the cemetery at Normandy Beach. Standing there amist thousands of crosses and Jewish stars with their ages (most between 18 and 24) etched in stone, brought up feelings of such sadness mixed with gratitude that I can neither speak nor write of it without tearing up.

It doesn't matter if you support, don't support, condone, had been for but are now against, are for but think we could have made better choices....war, all war sucks.

Edited at 2008-05-27 05:06 pm (UTC)
meryddian at 2008-05-28 00:04 (UTC) (Link)
I came over here from a link from no_bull_steve.

You wrote, "Tell them to support the new G.I. bill; ask them to pass legislation for better veterans health coverage, mental health care, and government payment for that care if they wish to seek private treatment. The VA hospitals are overwhelmed, and it takes some returning vets months to get the mental health care they need."

My grandfather lived out the last several years of his life in a VA hospital; and my father spent the last three of his in and out of the nearest VA hospital.

Compared to many civilian hospitals, the VA hospitals can at times seem downright depressing. There are no children and there are no babies, aside from those who visit. Navigating red tape and playing The Waiting Game are commonplace. Now, admittedly, the VA system does a lot more for the veterans than most hospitals would, especially when the vet doesn't have insurance. And there have certainly been plenty of tales of scandals.

I think what saddened me the most, every time we visited either my grandfather or father in the VA, was that there are many veterans - of all ages - in the VA system who have nobody to visit them. It reminds me of the quote on the kitchentablegang.org website: "Caring for a dead veteran is easy... bring a wreath, say a few words and walk away. Caring for a living veteran requires time, money and a life-long commitment. Every Veterans Day our politicians show they don't know the difference as they visit a cemetery instead of a VA hospital."
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