Essential Actions Please, not words or Parades

I’m glad Michael  McPhearson wrote this.  I was wanting to do something similar for my blog.  As a vet I share Michael’s sentiments expressed here. I have expressed similar musings in a post I wrote several years ago.

I would hope those who read it take it to heart and realize that mere thank you’s and parades really do little to serve Vets and their families.  More can be done by ensuring they receive all the health care they need, adequate shelter, a good paying job and a college education.  

It’s a shame we have so many non-profits in this country attempting to fill the voids caring for our vets and their families that a “grateful nation” should be willing to handle,

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Don’t Thank Me Anymore… Just Care for Veterans Who Return and Work To End All War
Michael McPhearson

This past Saturday morning in Saint Louis, MO I was walking home when I saw a people gathering and portions of the street being blocked.  I live downtown, so it could have been another run, walk or festival. I asked someone who looked like a participant and he told me it was for the Veterans Day Parade. I was a bit surprised because Veterans Day is Wednesday. He went on to say the parade was being done on Saturday because planners were not sure if they could get enough parade spectators on Wednesday. I’m not sure if he was right about why it was decided to have the parade on Saturday, but it makes sense and is an example of our society celebrating veterans but not really caring that much about us.

Many years ago I became fed up with the hollow thank yous and stopped celebrating Veterans Day. Today I join with Veterans For Peace in a call to Reclaim November 11th as Armistice Day—a day to think about peace and thank those who served by working to end war. I’m tired of us vets being used for war and then many of us being pretty much discarded. Instead of thanking us, change how we are treated and work to end war.  That is a real tribute.

“The madness and suffering will not end until civilians demand a different way.”

Do you know that an average of 22 veterans die by suicide every day? That means 22 died Saturday and through November 11th, 88 more veterans will die. Saturday’s parade and November 11th means nothing to these 110 veterans. To illustrate the severity of this epidemic, by November 11th next year, 8,030 veterans will have died by suicide.

Suicide is the direst challenge facing veterans, but there are many others. Recently, after years of higher unemployment rates for veterans who joined the military after September 11, 2001 than their civilian counterparts, veterans’ rates are lower at 4.6% — than the national average of 5%, as reported in USA Today, November 10, 2015. Yet, veterans between the age of 18 and 24 continue to face high unemployment at 10.4%, nearly identical to the 10.1% unemployment figure for civilians in the same bracket. However, these numbers do not tell the full story. Due to the slow economic recovery, many discouraged people have dropped out of the job market. Good paying jobs are hard to find. Well-paying low skilled jobs nearly don’t exist. Veterans negotiate these same obstacles while at the same time facing other challenges.

Homelessness continues to be a major problem for veterans. According to information from the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans, we veterans face homelessness because of “mental illness, alcohol and/or substance abuse, or co-occurring disorders. About 12% of the adult homeless population are veterans.”

The site goes on to say that, “Roughly 40% of all homeless veterans are African American or Hispanic, despite only accounting for 10.4% and 3.4% of the U.S. veteran population, respectively….Nearly half of homeless veterans served during the Vietnam era. Two-thirds served our country for at least three years, and one-third were stationed in a war zone.

Added to this shameful reality, 1.4 million veterans are considered at risk of homelessness due to poverty, lack of support networks, and dismal living conditions in overcrowded or substandard housing.

Rates of post-traumatic stress are, of course, higher for veterans than civilians, no surprise there. To that we add what some call the new signature wound for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, traumatic brain injury or TBI, primarily caused by improved explosive devices. A December 2014 Washington Post article reported that, “Of the more than 50,000 American troops wounded in action in Iraq and Afghanistan, 2.6 percent have suffered a major limb amputation, the majority due to an improvised explosive device.”

After we are injured in war, what happens when we come back home? Today we have veterans from WWII through the current conflicts trying to access Veteran Affairs healthcare. That is 74 years of veterans from too many conflicts, wars and military actions to list. We have all heard about veterans waiting for months and sometimes years for care. Perhaps you have heard the horror stories of veterans receiving negligent care like at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center as reported in February of 2007 by the Washington Post.

We keep hearing claims that services will get better and we support our veterans and troops. But an October, 2015 Military Times article reports, “Eighteen months after a scandal broke over waiting periods for Veterans Affairs health care, the department is still struggling to manage patients’ schedules, at least in the mental health care arena where some veterans have waited nine months for evaluations, a new government report says.” Could this have anything to do with the suicide rate?

This neglect is nothing new. It has been the case since Shays Rebellion in 1786 led by veterans treated poorly after the Revolutionary War to the Bonus Army of World War I when veterans and their families gathered in Washington in the spring and summer of 1932 to demand pay promised that they needed in the middle of the Depression. For decades Vietnam Veterans were denied recognition of illnesses caused by the extremely deadly chemical dioxin in Agent Orange. Gulf War veterans are struggling with Gulf War Syndrome.  And now the challenges faced by returning troops today. The madness and suffering will not end until civilians demand a different way. Maybe because you don’t have to fight the wars, you don’t care. I don’t know. But with all the above I outlined, I repeat, don’t thank us anymore. Change the above and work to end war.  That’s real thanks.


4 responses to “Essential Actions Please, not words or Parades

  1. (The following is another classic Sedate Me rant; late in arrival, 10 times as long as necessary, but still only marginally relevant.)

    Yeah, Armistice Day!!!! How easily we forget. (A play on a well known Canadian Nov11th line, “Lest we forget.”)

    This day was created for the sole purpose of, far from “celebrating”, but remembering the carnage of WW1. This is why, in Canuckistan, we call it Remembrance Day. And, unlike almost everybody, I remember WW1! (Historically speaking, that is. But I assume Woodgate was there 😉 so I shall defer to his first hand experience.)

    Despite being “the war to end all wars” (cough, cough), people remember jack fucking squat about it! Some may know what “started” it, but most of them do only because they listen to this Scottish hipster band (with an appropriately titled song for this story) and wondered where they got their strange name from. I know we’re now a society of imbeciles, but I’m still astounded how many of us are completely unaware of WW1 basics.

    If I had to pick one war to describe the nature of war, WW1 is it. Strip away all the “reasons” and “inescapable logic” that drove it. Like nearly all wars, the “reasons” & “logic” behind it were complete bullshit. They ONLY make sense to the people trapped in the thinking of the day and look utterly foolish to everyone who isn’t. This is why nobody understands WW1 today. None of us are caught up in the Groupthink. We’re too busy drinking the ISIS Kool-Aid.

    As always in war, Elites sent Commoners to get killed by the millions so they can enlarge their Empires. Or as fellow Great Canadian, Dr Norman Bethune said to describe war…

    Is it possible that a few rich men, a small class of men, have persuaded a million men to attack, and attempt to destroy, another million men as poor as they? So that these rich may be richer still? Terrible thought! How did they persuade these poor men to come to China? By telling them the truth? No, they would never have come if they had known the truth. Did they dare to tell these workmen that the rich only wanted cheaper raw materials, more markets and more profit? No, they told them that this brutal war was “The Destiny of the Race,” it was for the “Glory of the Emperor,” it was for the “Honour of the State,” it was for their “King and Country….False. False as hell!
    (Full version: )

    Wars have nothing to do with “democratic values”, especially WW1. Only a tiny number of democracies (assuming you were a white male) were involved. Most nations were Monarchial Empires and/or colonies of said Empires. (Ah, the more things change..the more they remain the same.) Hell, the rulers of most nations involved were close relatives! They used to party together! WW1 was really just a family feud, minus Richard Dawson. (Although, he played a character in the rematch.)

    WW1 was face to face. It was gory, blood soaked and above all an utterly, absolutely, pointless waste of life. It was so pointless, they made a sequel, WW2: Nuclear Boogaloo And like most sequels, there was twice as much blood, twice the pyrotechnics and it cost at least twice as much. To be fair, this sequel did have a better plot than the original, which is exceedingly rare.

    Nearly everyone forgets how global WW1 was. Most people’s knowledge is limited to the trenches of France & Belgium. But who knows there was ground fighting in Asia & Africa? Hell, most people aren’t even aware there was fighting in Russia…even among the folks who know the war caused the downfall of the Czar and the creation of the Soviet Union.

    Britain & France imported loads of “inferior” colonials of every race in their Empire and used them as cannon fodder, something they proved equally exceptional at. And that’s what this war was all about. Millions of young men got turned into mud marinated hamburger, grilled by flamethrowers and gently flavoured with mustard (gas). Mmm, magnifique!!!

    And for what? I’ll bet my left nut 90+% of North Americans (who don’t mainline the History of War channels) couldn’t even vaguely describe the outcome. Here it is in short form:

    They ALL lost, some more than others. It was a stalemate of US Congressional standards. The “winners” won purely because they failed to collapse first. Several nations not only don’t exist anymore, some of the nations that replaced them no longer exist! As for the “winners”, not even all the “winners” made it to the peace table (See: Russia & Italy) Speaking of which, I expect the vast majority of North Americans couldn’t do a “2 outta 4” as to which side Italy, Russia, China & Japan were on.

    Shit, $100 says most Americans under 40 couldn’t point to 3 current European nations on an unlabelled map.

    • “But I assume Woodgate was there 😉 so I shall defer to his first hand experience.)”

      One of these days I am going to send the Ageist SWAT team to hunt you down SM. 😉

      • Hey, anybody who knows me knows that I LOVE old stuff! Old cars, old phones, old movies, old TV shows, old music, old bloggers…Hell, I even despise old people a lot less than I despise non-old people.

        I use a rotary phone. I date older women. Up until it closed in a local political scandal, I used to do all my shopping at a 150 year old department store. I even love outdated & obsolete concepts like “privacy”, “democracy”, and “human rights”. Most people look at me like I’m completely insane.

        No, if I’m ageist, I’m ageist against the young, the new, the modern, the fashionable. But you’re absolutely right, Woodgate. There should be a SWAT team that goes around preforming hits on ageist young people, which is about 97% of folks under…well, 55, now that I think of it. (These days, even most middle age folks are ageist against themselves.)

  2. When I was a kid, Remembrance Day was a gloomy day, both literally & figuratively. Where I lived, a few dozen old geezers and their families huddled around the monument. They struggled both to hold themselves up in the cold and to keep from crying. It was an attitude of “Lest we forget” and “Never again”. The military feel just helped them keep it together until it was over. Everybody understood it was a coping mechanism.

    Today, ALL of the above has changed. The utterly traumatized WW1 crowd is all gone and only few WW2 vets remain. Despite that, the crowds are FAR bigger than ever. But only a few are vets & relatives. And that’s utterly changed the tone.

    Everyone is so eager to pretend they care, it’s disgusting. Every politico under the sun shows up now. They get into fist fights to pose for pictures beside the most grizzled vets…even the politicos voting to cut their benefits to the bone. For some idiotic reason, the monument in my town is less than a metre from one of the busiest intersections in the city. But the city used to block off just 2 of 4 lanes of traffic. Now it blocks off, not just the intersection, but roughly 4 downtown city blocks.

    Starting last year, mobile surveillance camera units were lined around the 4 block perimeter (despite Big Bro already having 3 permanent cameras around the area of the proceedings). Half the cops on duty are stationed there. Plain clothes security is everywhere and there were even snipers were deployed on rooftops!!! My podunk town had more security staff present…than there were people present at the ceremonies during the 70’s & 80’s!

    That will show ISIS!!!

    Even the weather has changed. Global warming means people can often show up in shorts. Unfortunately, that’s almost appropriate. “Never again” has been replaced “Way to go boys!” It’s approaching a celebration of the Military Industrial Complex (which now makes up a shocking % of my podunk city’s evaporating manufacturing base).

    Yes, thanks are absolutely in order for the WW2 crowd and apologies in order for every vet since. But the overall tone is WAY too positive & accepting of war. The whole thing sickens me now.

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