Archive for March 6th, 2007

There is a movement afoot in the blogosphere, and I am putting my two cents in.  I went over to Charlotte’s Web to visit the other day, and found a link to another blog, The Hobgoblin of Little Minds, which is written by BikeProf.  Now, I respect Charlotte quite a lot, and since she suggested I might want to visit BikeProf and see what he had to say, I did so, and found a beautifully written post about what it means to say you support the troops, and what it OUGHT to mean.   Today, I find Aphra Behn continuing the trend, with a very thoughtful post on the same subject.  

Having cogitated on the subject long enough, I feel moved to join in the throng.  I will just mention that the idea is to get the whole blogosphere interested and posting about this very subject.   Together, we have a huge voice.  Today I noticed that there are 742,919 blogs registered on WordPress.  How many on Blogspot and Myspace?  That is a lot of voices.  I urge you to raise your voice as well.

Aphra Behn quoted a poem by Rudyard Kipling that was written 117 years ago.   I could copy her, but I’d rather you go and read her excellent post.   It hits at the crux of the problems found in the Grand old US of A regarding supporting the troops.  The problem is the funding and budget process.  You see, the Troops have promises made to them while they are troops.   These promises are made on the basis of the budget that year.  Unfortunately, Congress has to approve a new budget every year, and they are always looking for ways to make it balance.  God forbid that they should remember the promises made to their military in years gone by.  After all, they were not in office then (well, SOME of them probably were, but. . .) and when it comes time to fulfill the promises made this year they probably won’t be in office then.   It will be some other Congressperson’s problem.   Congress has a very short memory.

The promises I refer to are promises made to military personnel while they are serving about what will happen when they retire.   Let’s see, here’s one:  “We will pay you quite a lot less for your expertise in electronics (for example) than you could make out on the economy.   In fact, we’ll pay you half as much as you could make out in the “Real World.”  Hell, you are so gullible, how ’bout we make it a third as much!  After all, you have access to the Commissary system.  It’ll be worth it, though, because when you retire you will have a monthly stipend (which you won’t be able to live on), but when you get to be 65 we promise we will give you a raise in your stipend so that you’ll just barely be at the poverty level.   And you and your wife will always be entitled to medical care, so that will make up for the disparity.”  Only, they find they can’t afford to provide the medical care, so now military retired people must pay a yearly fee in order to qualify.   It isn’t a horrendous fee, it is very affordable.   But it made a lie of the promises made to people who were serving their country.  

Lest you think I talk through my hat, let me assure you that I have very personal experience with what I am talking about.  Jim served in the Navy honorably for 21 years.   He retired as a Chief Petty Officer with two Navy Achievement Awards.  He served during the Gulf War, and also during the Persian Gulf Crisis and the Vietnam War.  I am very glad that we do not have to live on his retired pay.

Additionally, our son is in the US Army.  As we speak, the unit he is assigned to is training and gearing up to be sent overseas.   They will probably be sent to Iraq.  Any one who thinks that I do not support the troops is wilfully unaware of the truth of the matter.

Supporting the Troops means you do not frivolously put them in harm’s way.  Once you have put them there, you make damn sure that they have the equipment they need and enough personnel to be effective.   And once they have come home injured in mind and body and spirit, you provide the medical, spiritual and mental health care to heal them.   And you do this as long as it takes.  If you have taken a whole human being and used them as cannon fodder and they return to their home blind, traumatized, amputated, WHATEVER, it is your duty as a people to make sure that they do not wind up begging and homeless on the streets of a major city ten years down the road.  That is what supporting the troops is about.

I will close with a short story.  

I had a very dear friend when I lived in Juneau.   He was a Viet Nam veteran, exposed to Agent Orange.  He was suffering from terrible rashes, dizziness, fatigue, like many of his fellow vets.  The Veteran’s Administration hospitals were stonewalling these guys, saying they had no conclusive evidence that Agent Orange was the cause of these ailments.  JK died four years later, victim of a brain tumor. 

 One of my very best friends was married to a Viet Nam veteran.  While he was in Viet Nam, he was exposed to Agent Orange.  Well, drenched with it on a daily basis for a while, actually.  Twenty years later, he developed a brain tumor.  Because of the experiences and fighting with the VA that happened in the 80s, people like my dying friend JK had proved to the VA that Agent Orange WAS responsible for certain types of cancers.   My friend’s husband’s brain tumor was one of the culprit cancers, and so when it was identified, the VA started paying him a stipend and providing 100% of his medical care.  Please bear in mind that this was an inoperable brain tumor, and he had received a sentence of death.

His death was slow, and excruciating.  When he finally died, towards the middle of December, the final insult to my bereaved friend was delivered.  She went to the bank to pay a bill, and when she tried to withdraw money, was informed she didn’t have that much in her savings account.   You see, her husband had died that month, and the automatic payment of his stipend for that month was automatically reversed, the money was withdrawn from their account without notice.  Policy.  He only got a stipend for the month if he lived through that month.  The lesson here is, make sure you die on the first of the month.  If he had died on the 30th or 31st, the stipend would still have been “recovered” by the VA.

Finally, I think we all must meditate on the meaning of these words, and call our leaders to account for their failure to abide by them:

WE THE PEOPLE of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our psoterity, so ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America. 

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