Home of the Brave

Author: Gary Hart

Among the standards for judging civilized societies is how they care for those who fight their wars. By this standard, the United States falls considerably short.

Despite the fact the we have a Department of Veterans Affairs that generally provides health, housing, and employment support for past veterans, there are still far too many veterans of Vietnam and now Iraq and Afghanistan in serious trouble. Too many Iraq and Afghanistan veterans, young men and women, are coming back to unemployment lines, homelessness, and illness, both physical and mental. A recent television program featured a community-generated effort to provide assistance to recent veterans in San Diego. More than a thousand veterans came. Almost all were homeless, unemployed, and in need of medical care.

Suicides, including at Fort Carson, Colorado, now represent a small epidemic. Statistics also document very high rates of motorcycle and car crashes and other self-destructive behavior among young veterans. A recent war casualty was in his twelfth rotation in and out of Iraq and Afghanistan. Drug use, spousal abuse, and divorce are all way beyond the ordinary for veterans.

In office, it was always a matter of bitter resentment that elected officials most bellicose and eager for confrontation and conflict were almost always the first to forget about the results of those conflicts and the costs in human lives. Every war resolution ought to require a personal pledge on the part of everyone voting for it, including the president, that they will remain responsible and accountable for its costs, even after they have left office. And, at the very least, all those eager for war ought to be required to personally meet all the coffins coming home.

7 Responses to “Home of the Brave”

  1. Stacy, military wife Says:

    Politicians already make any number of “personal pledges” that they fail to keep. The only way for this proposition to be remotely viable is to tie it to a percentage of post-political office income and retirement benefits. Let’s say any member of Congress in office when the military (not the nation) is at war is then legally required to have up to 10% (standard tithe) of their income and retirement automatically deducted and donated to charities that support veterans and military families. Perhaps politicians would then be less likely to continue to fund a war of choice, and more likely to adhere to their oath of office and perform their legal duties, such as invoking and enforcing the War Powers Act.

  2. Neal Taslitz, Esq. Says:

    Well said. Hopefully, everyone who reads your comments will pass them on to others in the immediate future.

    Not only to I fear for our country and our veterans, I do not understand how our leaders are able to sleep at night knowing the hardships that our veterans and their families face.

    With my deepest respect,
    Neal Taslitz

  3. Debbie Lackowitz Says:

    Mr Hart. One has to wonder what’s really going on. These days, it seems to be all about this. Recent occurrences (the fellow in Tennessee, who’s house burned down because he didn’t pay $75?) just show that we have devolved. One is not a victim now, nope. You MUST have done something wrong, and of course you must be punished or pay the consequences. This also extends to our Vets (if you think I’m digressing). How can we as a nation just shove them off? After they have so valiantly fought for US. Yes Sir, we DO have an obligation, a huge one. First, to take care of them. Second, just as you stated, make those who actually vote to get us into these conflicts responsible. 4-EVER! No exceptions! That includes President Obama and Afghanistan. He doesn’t get a ‘buy’ cause I like him. As our national anthem says; are we really ‘the land of the free, and the home of the brave’? 9/11 certainly did a number on us as a nation. And nine years hence, we still have NOT recovered. Got our equilibrium back. The Islamophobia rampant just shows that. It’s okay to be afraid, sometimes it’s necessary. But constantly fearful to the point of hysteria? That Sir definitely needs work. And we haven’t even begun it yet. Especially since one of our major parties seems to thrive on that fear. When will it end? ONLY when we stop falling for it, that’s when.

  4. Jim Davis Says:

    As a veteran, and as one who has taken advantage of programs available at the James H. Quillen VA Medical Center in TN, I can say that the VA falls short in their mission. During the year that I have been in the homeless program here, I know of at least three people who have committed suicide, and two that hav e died under other circumstances. In all five of these case, and many others, veterans have been rushed through their respective programs and pushed back into the world without the proper skills necessary to deal with everyday life. The medical and mental health care that some of my comrades have received has been substandard. I was told by a VA social worker that “nobody here gives a damn about you”. Their main purpose seems to push people through as quickly as possible to make their numbers go up so they can get funding. At some point, the VA has to acknowledge that they are woefully understaffed and their care is substandard. The bright spot? I have landed a job that will provide health insurance so that I will no longer have to rely on the inadequate care provided by the VA.

  5. Publius Says:

    Mr. Hart,
    The reality of these wars is that the American public views them with detachment. Unlike Vietnam where the specter of the war was always with us from our draft number to the massive casualties which touched the lives of nearly every American, we could see the human costs. The current conflict is seen almost like a video game, Modern Warfare, the civilian and military casualties nothing more than a virtual world.

    I asked my American Government classes a question regarding the 110,000 civilian deaths in Iraq that WikiLeaks reported and they seemed unconcerned and unaffected. One young African-American lady stated that these people “deserved” to die because they “supported” Al-Qaeda. She mouthed the familiar phrases of the MIC “if we don’t fight ’em there, we fight ’em here.” Another young man justified the deaths as our generations Hiroshima and Nagasaki a response to our own Pearl Harbor, 9/11. When asked about our own military deaths and casualties these students are just as nonchalant, “they knew what they were getting into when they signed up.” It is a very disturbing phenomenon.

    We as a nation have detached ourselves from being a “citizen” so that we are not burdened with the duties and responsibilities. We allow the image makers to tell us how to think, how to vote, and what to buy. The image is now more important than the substance, Juan Williams statements are more important than the sobering WikiLeaks documents not because Fox or NPR or MSNBC say so, but because we choose to let them make our choices. The body politic in this country is on life support, I fear that it is already brain-dead.

  6. Kevin Proud Veteran Says:

    It seems fitting that I find this blog and read it on this Veterans Day morning. The article touched me as do all the comments here. Coincidentally my father a proud a retired Navy veteran passed away at James H. Quillen VA Medical Center in TN. Johnson City to be exact. He is buried there also. He was only 58. He died from the cancer he contracted from the asbestos from the Aircraft carrier he was assigned to during the Vietnam era.

    As for myself I served only one peacetime tour in the US Army. My mos was 91G – Behavioral Science Specialist. Among it’s responsibility’s was to co-facilitate PTSD group therapy sessions. This MOS was also an enlisted level first line of contact to identify potential suicide risks and provide intervention and assessment. This mos was dissolved shortly after my discharge in 1889. It certainly seems this is one mos that is sorely needed.

    One beacon of light I have found for veterans would be the New England Shelter from Homeless Vets. This is a non-profit organization in Boston Mass. It’s organizations like this one that those of us who know, how care should focus our energy on.

    In memory of those who live and died for our freedom, remind those around you that today is Veterans Day.

  7. Christine Gallo Says:

    In my part of the country every suburb is putting up war memorials, requesting donations, so that we can “honor our men and women who have served”. Unfortunately these people are blind to the actual needs of the vets, most are confirmed Republicans who would oppose having to pay a cent more in taxes to support increased funding for VA centers, medical care, jobs, or housing. Nor are they the regular donors to the food banks and homeless shelters that provide for the needs of so many veterans today. After all, their children don’t serve, they go to the best universities, and become Wall Street bankers!

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