Once upon a time in SEA, we (some of my fellow airmen) sat around one night theorizing on what niche Congress felt we inhabited. This was 1970 and it was becoming apparent that the war in SEA was winding down. The Kent State Massacre was fresh in everyone’s minds. Requests for materiel and manpower went unanswered or were deferred. Deafness had begun to set in and a marked indifference to our plight was becoming apparent. The rest is history. The pandemic of unemployment following that debacle is still remembered.
This morning I read that Congress, or more specifically the Senate, has opted to bail out and go electioneering at the expense of Veterans. Member Bob from Kellogg’s country in Battle Creek sent me Rachel Maddow’s scathing take on it. It’s ugly. I mean the situation, not Rachel. Well, actually Rachel isn’t going to win the Miss America contest but that’s a subject for another day.
I suppose anyone could present the message but Rachel in her own inimitable way is the perfect foil for this. She does have her following among progressive listeners and I have no problem with the message she’s disseminating. I find it odd she should be the standard bearer for Veterans but we certainly can’t pick and choose our allies. She vocalized perfectly what I feel is the disconnect between “talking the talk” and “walking the walk”. The Senate gave Vets the bitchslap in no uncertain terms and then retreated to their far-flung constituencies to glad hand and kiss babies.
Politics and religion have no home here at Asknod. When they do insinuate themselves into our narrow world, we feel compelled to comment. It makes no difference who put a fork in this. With an unemployment figure much higher than the comparable civilian populace, the need is visible and palpable. Having a talent for putting an 81mm mortar round down the throat of Abdul and his buddies doesn’t translate well into police work or fire fighting. This means retraining or finding a trade you engaged in prior to enlistment. Veterans did not provoke this issue. They inherited it with the rapid downsizing of our forces as the conflict in Southwest Asia winds down. Now it appears they will carry the water into civilian life as well if they survive the mental challenges.
As most of you know, we came home from Southeast Asia to a country weary of war and conflict among itself. We were deadwood, a fifth wheel, a drag on unemployment and suffering from all manner of strange diseases. We were expected to assimilate and shut up. There were no provisions for our entry back into society. Sink or swim was the mantra. Now we seem to be caught in George Santayana’s redux (Those who cannot remember the past are doomed to repeat it). If you use 1962 as the jumping off point for Vietnam, then this is the fiftieth anniversary and a fitting time to embrace all the shortcomings that followed.
A seminal difference between then and now, however, is a sea change in our perception of our military and our Veterans. Veterans are enjoying a bounce in American’s perceptions. Many’s the organization set up specifically to help our new Vets integrate into society. We are no longer viewed as a liability and are greeted warmly with that tired, hackneyed phrase thanking us for our service. PR flacks need to work on that and tune it up. All the thanks in the world is not going to fix this.
The greed endemic among capitalists is so serious that they have finally sawed off the limb they’re standing on. Today was classic evidence of that. In order to show financial restraint, they opted to save bridges to nowhere, continuing free Starbucks for Welfare to Work Moms and special pork sandwiches for their own constituents. Veterans didn’t make the cut. Well, almost. They’ve promised to leave vA’s assets alone in the new-found rush to financial austerity. For now at any rate. Veterans Job Corps funds are the deal breaker. In spite of our unselfish commitment to America and post-9/11 security, we are now being politely (actually rudely) shown the door.
Ms. Maddow’s guest, former Rep. Patrick Murphy (Pa.), pointed out that a Vet now takes his life every 80 minutes-down from the 18 minutes before the VA Secretary made mewling sounds about how hard he was working to correct this deficiency. vA is as ill-equipped to deal with this current influx as they were in 1975 when the bill was presented at the end of that conflict. And keep in mind that this “war” is still going on.
George Santayana also said “Only the dead have seen the end of war”. This is often erroneously ascribed to Plato but nevertheless the sentiment remains. What I find sad is that so many are returning only to join the ranks of their fallen comrades before their time. What’s worse is that they are dying by their own hand and America’s politicians seem to be copacetic with the choice. Congress all but made sure today that the status quo will remain and discouraged Vets will continue to see a bleak future with no corresponding panacea to remedy it.
Keep this in mind when you wield your ballot in November. I trust Vets unless they work for VSOs. I trust Vets who are politicians -but only with many reservations. Blindly adhering to any party or philosophy is dangerous. And that’s all I’m going to say about that.