A Day Late and a Dollar Short

I’ve come to despise Veteran’s Day and I hoped to let it pass without remark, but I spent the afternoon with one of the Butcher’s friends, listening to German rap music and looking at pictures of Hawaii, and carefully avoiding all talk of the war.  Who can stand to think of the vibrant, funny guy sitting in your living room shipped off to Iraq or Afghanistan?

You push it out of your mind.  You try not to say the things you want to say for fear of making the good-byes sound like you think they’re going to be permanent, and so he leaves and you just say, “See you round.”

My nephew’s uncle is back in the Army.  He served in Iraq and was discharged and came home and was so fucked up that his family wasn’t certain he wasn’t going to kill his wife or himself or both.  He moved to North Carolina and then to Mississippi in an effort to get the mental health care he needed.  Finally, they told him it would be easier for him if he just reenlisted.

And so he has.

They promised him that he would never have to go back to Iraq.

And so far, that’s been true.

And the other truth is that he does seem to be getting the help he needs.

Still, he should not have felt like he had to reenlist to get it.

I think that Veteran’s Day is a hard enough holiday in the best of times.  All other things aside, how do you say ‘thank you’ to the folks who are willing to make that sacrifice of their time and their well-being?

But, how now, when our system for taking care of veterans is so fucked up, when one out of four folks come back from the war on terror with post traumatic stress syndrome to find a grossly inadequate system in place to help them deal with that… how now, when we don’t take adequate care of our veterans, can we look them in the face and say ‘thank you’ like it has any meaning?

If we meant it, we would show it–not at parades or photo ops–but where it counts, in the lives of these men and women.

8 thoughts on “A Day Late and a Dollar Short

  1. Again, I could do without the gestures of reverence like parades and ribbons and such. Maybe we could honor those that sacrificed by making sure they have a safety net when they return, or that their families have some help if they don’t. I don’t understand why we have spent close to a trillion dollars in Iraq, and our soldiers don’t have what they need, there, or back home. I’m anti-death penalty, but I could be swayed when it comes to war profiteers.

  2. Amen. The G.I. Bill allowed my father to get a degree in accounting, and he parlayed that into a successful business and a one way ticket out of the barrio for his family.

  3. Yep, I could support that and real funding and innovative programs for the VA. That, to me, is how we show our appreciation–by taking care of folks when they get home and giving them a leg up to a regular life (whatever that might mean) when they get out.

  4. Yeah, people don’t realize just how much the fact that in the U.S. being middle class is the default is a product of the first G.I. bill. (I wish the “my family made it into the middle class all on their own” folks would admit it, but that’s another discussion.) The fact is, 60 years ago we were grateful to the people who had fought, suffered, and survived, and did something well-thought-out, concrete, and successful to reward them. Subsidies for education, low-rate secured mortgages, and health care were a damned effective package. I don’t think we’ve gotten any stupider in the meantime, and we ought to be able to do something similar for the vets now.

  5. I definitely agree. There is no reason we shouldn’t be providing this. If you put your life on the line for your country, your country should at least have the good grace to make sure you have a life to come back to. If you get hurt, they should put you back together again. If you put your education on hold, they should provide ways for you to get what you need. And once they stop feeding and housing you, they should damn well make sure you have some help doing thos things on your own.

    If ‘you broke it, you bought it’ works for stores and militarist slogans, one would think it would work well enough in this case.

    (It’d be nice if we stopped deporting their family members, too. And assorted other ringing insults.)

  6. Yep, the GI Bill was a good and decent thing. Many of my family members got out of sharecropping (and sprung the rest of us with their earnings) because of the GI Bill. I would gladly bear the increased tax burden to support a similar program for returning service personnel, as that bill (unlike the trillion dollars we’re flushing away now) would actually be an investment in our country’s long-term economic and intellectual welfare.

Comments are closed.