Monday, May 26, 2008

Remembering Old Friends and an Unjust War Today

Over 11 years on active duty, you meet and become friends with a lot of interesting people. One of the best parts of being a soldier and a leader of soldiers is meeting such a diverse group of people.

Individuals from such different backgrounds come together to form 4-5 man teams, 9-10 man squads, 40 man platoons, 140 man companies, 800 man battalions, etc.

Having worked from a small team level all the way up to a battalion level, you get to see these backgrounds come together to form strong teams.

It's through building many of these teams that I was able to meet so many great American servicemen and women.

Memorial Day and Veterans Day are two days that we recall the memories of old soldiers like Private First Class Jason Hall, Sergeant First Class Richard Henkes (killed on my 35th Birthday), Sergeant First Class Gregory Hicks , Sergeant Glenn Allison, and many others.

Veterans remember these friends everyday.

I check Antiwar on a daily basis hoping that another one of my former soldiers has not made the ultimate sacrifice for their nation. It's tough to look at sometimes. I can't imagine what its like for family members.

I think of all my friends that served their nation so honorably. Guys I served with at Fort Benning, who served in the first Gulf War with the 1st Infantry Division, The Big Red One. They came back to parades and great displays of respect for their service.

They also struggled to get their rightfully earned VA medical benefits. Whether it was Chris, a paratrooper in the 82nd Airborne, exposed to Sarin Gas in the first GW, or John, a Long Range Surveillance Operator in the 24th Infantry Division, I have seen literally hundreds of former colleagues struggle to get their benefits. Chris battled for nearly a decade to get the proper treatment at the St Cloud VA.

Some scoff at the idea of increasing GI Bill benefits. Afterall, the health problems amongst Veterans are pretty severe. I applaud the actions and I suspect it's merely the first step in a concentrated effort to strengthen the benefits that our servicemen and women have rightfully earned.

While Katherine Kersten questions benefits for Veterans by labeling them as "wards of the state" and other commenter's refer to these benefits as "welfare", people like Congressman Tim Walz are working to make things better for our Veterans.

It's one of many reasons I support candidates like Steve Sarvi and Ashwin Madia.


A "ward of the state"?

Unless you have served, or are close to someone who has served, you cannot fathom the sacrifices one makes while serving, on either active duty or in a reserve/National Guard role.

I can't count the number of weddings, funerals, birthdays, anniversaries, and other important events I have missed because of a deployment.

There was a soldier in my platoon, who joined us during my last month in South Korea. He served his year in Korea, moved to Fort Hood. Deployed from Fort Hood to Afghanistan. He has served 3 tours in Iraq now as well. In 8 years, he's been home for about 3.

Our leaders at the highest levels have failed us.

Our leaders refused to show the coffins coming home.

Tours were extended for our National Guard and Reserve men and women, only to have these servicemembers find out via their own families.

Veterans of this war committing suicide, at rates twice that of society. Two of those Veterans have been local, at least 15 from Minnesota.

Soldiers and Veterans alike were mistreated at VA and other government facilities across the country. To be completely fair, our Veterans have been mistreated regardless of the party in power of Congress or the President. It's just worse now than it has been in quite some time.

The privatization of our military. How groups like Blackwater, Dynacorp, Vinnel, United Defense, Halliburton and other groups are mercenary forces. They have the best equipment and get paid 3-5 times more than our foot soldiers.

I was a kid once, imagine that. I didn't listen to my mom and grandpa when they told me to bring my GI Joes or Transformers in. I left them in the sandbox and let them rot in the rain, snow, wind, cold and heat.

I threw temper tantrums when I could not get a new GI Joe, like Snake Eyes!

It's exactly what President Bush has done to our military and our Veterans.

He has abused it, broken it. But he won't pay for it.

When Congress passes something substantive for our Veterans, he throws a temper tantrum and vetoes a great bill.

Someone will have to pay for all this.

We will. Our soldiers and Veterans will continue to struggle for proper care. A cost that can never be quantified.

I am ashamed of what President Bush has done to our military, as a matter of fact, I hate what he has done to the military.

I spoke to one of my former soldiers, my Bradley driver in Korea, last summer. Gordon was telling me about how all the equipment in his active duty unit was broken. All parts and supplies were headed to Iraq to the "front" per se. Our soldiers were left back here training with deadlined and inoperative equipment.

I wonder if things would be different today if we remembered our fallen everyday.

I wonder if things would be different if we remembered all these sacrifices everyday.

The real cost of this war.

So stop with all your damn catchphrases.

Stop the "Liberate Iraq" stuff.

Stop using "Support our Troops" as a political tool. Do something to "Support our Troops". The yellow ribbon on your SUV simply does not cut it.

Stop calling people like me, "bleeding heart liberals".

I support our troops and Veterans alike, sans a yellow ribbon.

I'm a purple heart liberal and proud of it.


taxpaying liberal said...

To absent friends.
Thanks Hal.

TwoPutt said...

Thank you for your service, Hal.

eric zaetsch said...

It is a long post. You do not seem bitter. Frustrated. Very frustrated.

Not bitter.

That is a hard balance to strike.

Carter and Bush [first], were the last veterans in the White House.

It did not seem to make much difference.

It seems things were better for veterans during the Truman and Eisenhower days. But I was very young then. They were both veterans, Truman in combat in WW I.

The bosses were less sure of themselves then, also. Now they seem more certain they are firmly on top, whether true or not.

As a non-veteran, keep at it is all I can say.

Political Muse said...

Amazing Post Blue Man! You speak with authority on this issue and should never stop reminding people that supporting the troops is far more than a yellow sticker.