There are veterans in my life who left their homes, their families, and all that was comfortable and familiar to fight for…….
In World War II it was easy. It was clear who our enemy was and why were there. In the Pacific we fought Japan because Japan brought the war to our doorstep. And we went to Europe because Jeb Bush missed his chance to kill Baby Hitler. Actually, to be really simplistic about it, we had to go because Hitler was winning, which meant it was just a matter of time before he was knocking on our door. Better to go after him there than wait until he’d had time to recover from conquering Europe and was strong enough to kick our ass in our own backyard.
But the Vietnam War brought a change in consciousness to us. We began to have doubts about why we were really there, and no one in leadership would give us a clear answer to soothe our doubts. Combine that with TV journalism that showed us for the first time what war really looks like on the front lines. No wonder so many of our kids tried everything they could to avoid the draft!
Skip forward to September 11, 2001. We Americans were angry. We were hurt. War had, once again, been brought to our doorstep. But this time we weren’t sure how to fight this enemy.
But our young men and women stepped up to defend their country, and the next thing you know they found themselves in Iraq and Afghanistan fighting two unwinnable wars while ill-equipped. Families were having to buy Interceptor Flak jackets and ceramic plates and ship them to their kids to keep them safe, because Bush’s military sent them to war with obsolete Flak jackets from the Vietnam War era.
Meanwhile, the rest of us did our patriotic duty by shopping.
And our indifference didn’t stop there. Once home, veterans found themselves waiting for appointments at the VA for an inexcusable amount of time. Our elected officials that sent them over there couldn’t be bothered to make sure they got needed treatment once they got back. So we had to depend on media outlets like NPR (who followed this story like a hound dog) and comedians like Jon Stewart (who regularly reamed the VA on The Daily Show) to shame our elected officials and government bureaucrats to do their damn jobs.
Some soldiers had employers who ensured there would be a job for them when they returned. Other vets had difficulty finding a job because employers didn’t want to risk hiring a “loose cannon” that might go off whenever a car backfired in the parking lot. “Thank you for serving your country, but you’re too fucked up in the head to work here.”
Today is a day set aside to honor those brave men and women who answered the call to defend their nation.
We need to also reflect on what a piss-poor job we’ve done in supporting them during and afterward.