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Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Have We Got What It Takes To Look Them in The Face?

Supporters of our invasion of Iraq cheerlead from their armchairs for the women and men of our military. Some folks send packages of goodies and letters to soldiers and sailors. Veterans for Peace stand on a street corner each week asking to bring our troops home. These are all examples of different ways we express our support for U.S. soldiers.

But what about support when they come back? While some historical references reflect an effort to support our soldiers upon their return from battle, our history of neglecting soldiers also flourishes and seems to be getting worse.

This is an excerpt from an article by Tim Pluta, a US Armed Forces veteran himself. In it, Pluta writes about the experience of those soldiers lucky enough to make it through the war and come back home to the US. And oftentimes that experience is anything but pretty:

Korean and Vietnam veterans received little of the support and recognition that previous veterans received. Thirty years after being exposed to Agent Orange in Vietnam, and suffering numerous medical problems, a neighbor of mine finally began to receive compensation from our government's admission that Agent Orange is toxic.

Because of situations like this, nearly three times the number of Vietnam veterans died after coming home than died during the war.

Today, there are reports of U.S. soldiers wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan, being secretly transferred from Andrews Air Force base, under the cover of darkness, to military transport planes and dispersed out to military hospitals across the country. Why? So that we do not see them.

I have written on this topic before. And I just get to hear too many reports about the problems associated with how veterans are treated in this great land of ours to believe that these problems can be written off as an occasional oversight on the part of this official or other, or as a situation caused by the lack of planning or lack of resources. No,- at least in my humble opinion, this is lack of compassion, lack of concern we are talking about here.

Asks Pluta,

Is it easier to support the mythical, invisible image of a brave soldier fighting for "glory" and "freedom" than it is to support the very real limbless, psychologically damaged or lifeless person returning from Iraq?
It certainly very much appears so.

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