Support soldiers and veterans all the time
by Donald K. Sanders
“God and the Soldier all men adore, in times of danger, not before.
The Danger passed and the wrong righted, God is forgotten, the soldier Slighted.”
~ Rudyard Kipling
Of all men, only a few are natural born killers. Soldiers of these United States must be trained to kill. In any war, success is measured by the number of enemy dead an army can provide. The army that willingly kills the most will carry the day. An efficient soldier wants to kill because he hates his enemy enough to take his life. This is the natural way of things that are militant.
A well-trained soldier must have a hatred for those he will kill. He must believe his enemy is not worthy of living. The soldier must see the enemy as something other than human. The enemy, whether he is a “Red Skin, a filthy Jap, nasty Nazi, Gook, or Rag Head” must be seen as less than human. This process, we call “dehumanization”
Combat brings out the very best and the very worst in men. Bravery is a sometime thing and generally a reaction to training and beliefs. The flip side of the bravery coin is brutality. The brutality of those directly involved in combat is generally directed to combatants. The brutality toward prisoners and civilians is generally much more cruel.
The problem with “dehumanization” is that it is based in deceit. It is a lie, and eventually the individual soldier will see the truth. At this point, the conflict moves away from the enemy and the soldier is now at war with himself. He will no longer hate his enemy for he now hates himself even more. The soldier will carry the wounds and scars of their combat for the rest of their lives. Most of us will shy away from viewing the crippled and maimed soldier but we have even more difficulty dealing with those that carry unseen, mental scars.
The war in Iraq and Afghanistan is every bit as manufactured a conflict as was Viet Nam. When our brave American soldiers wake up to the fact that they have been engaged in mortal combat for no other reason than procuring oil and satisfying corporate greed, they will not be able to bear the pain of what they have done. The pain of what this cost them, cost their families, and cost thousands of innocent Iraqis will be overbearing and painful.
It is easier for government to honor dead heroes because the live ones will need help. When I and others returned home from Vietnam in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s, it was somewhat of a fashion to spit upon returning soldiers and opposition to the war was directed at the soldiers. I can tell you firsthand that it is easier to withstand the wounds of combat and all of the agent orange in the world than it is to bear the condemnation of the American public as a “drugged up baby killer.”
That was then, but today our young men, fresh from the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan have served bravely and faithfully. Some have given all. Some have been wounded but all who come back will have problems that need to be dealt with. As a Viet Nam veteran I know of the mental scars they will carry as long as they live.
Already, I have read reports saying veterans from Iraq have got to wait for medical treatment. Does the Obama administration have a plan, and are the Veterans administration and military health systems ready to support the troops? The soldier does not decide to go to war. Soldiers do not start wars. Soldiers only combat the enemy in wars, at our request, so we must support the troops. All the troops! All the time!
Base closures threaten the delivery of health care to veterans. There have been closings all across the nation. Budget cuts have been planned for the Veterans Administration. The current level of service to veterans is already inadequate. The VA now has a record of denying services to veterans by giving applicants the run around and denying service connection for many illnesses including Agent Orange and Gulf War syndrome. Vets from as far back as the Korean War have struggled for years simply to get basic treatment and coverage, and some were apparently deliberately misdiagnosed.
The Veteran’s Administration has stated that personnel returning from Iraq are already exhibiting symptoms of PTSD by the hundreds. The VA stated that those suffering from PTSD symptoms, sleep disorders, depression, and emotionally distancing themselves from loved ones, may be seen by a doctor, but for many it is just not happening.
Again, I must say that I am limited in the number of words per column so I haven’t the room to say more, but I have to say this one last thing:
“Support the troops? It’s easy to say but lip service isn’t enough. So long as our government continues to choose a path to war, the troops will need your support. The WWII generation and the Korean War Vets are fast aging and those of us who are Viet Nam Vets are not far behind. The Gulf War veterans are as deserving of support as are the generations who proceeded them. Sticking a yellow ribbon on your vehicle or wearing a rubber band on you wrist is nothing but a hollow boast if you don’t make a conscience effort to support our troops.”
There you go — what do you do now?”