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All Bets Are Off For Today's Vets

By Horace Coleman

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The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect the policies or stances of VVAW.

A new year slinks and cowers near;
the old one writhes and dies in fear.

The government, the corporatized military and the anesthetized public live in universes unparallel to that of veterans. The soon to be ancient regime government spins out its last web of whims like a drunken spider while ruling by fiat, fear and signing orders. Consider this:

● There's no draft to staff "the war on terror (war of error?)" so those at the narrow end of the push pin do multiple tours in war zones. So ordered by the overbearing, lightweight air heads and functionaries of state bearing down on them. The "poverty draft," accelerated by a poor economy, is a strong motivator driving people with prior service to re enlist.

● No tax hikes to pay for war costs that strain the national budget. This made the war acceptable to a public already generally untouched by it. There are under funded services, as usual, for veterans. Evidently the full costs of war are only to be paid by the warriors. This is no accident. Neither is:

● Troops judged fit to enter military serve are often mustered out—after serving in war zones—because of "pre existing conditions." Too screwed up to stay in but not to get in? Kicking them to the curb is much cheaper than treating them. We've used you; now we'll lose you. Or, troops are given Stop Loss orders that keep them from leaving the military (even if they'd completed the enlistment they'd agreed to).

Civilian version: Bank and financial CEOs and upper executives, in addition to the usual golden parachutes, use government bail out funds to give themselves obscenely large bonuses as their businesses collapsed and worker bees were fired / laid off. Or, non competitive cost plus contracts were given to U.S. firms who did shoddy work.

● Health Care: Moldy rooms at Walter Reed Hospital are good enough for troops getting after care. The public was aghast (for a while); Congress fumed (a little bit). Little happened that changed things. The most frequent wounds of the GWOT (the Global War on Terrorism fought mostly in a country that had nothing to do with the criminal acts of 9/11) are Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) and Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome (PTSD). Consequently, those in charge contemplate closing the primary center used to study and treat TBI (currently located at a research facility in Austin, Texas).

Civilian equivalent: Health care programs increased employees' co payments, reduced treatment options, cancelled coverage or arbitrarily refused to pay bills.

● Controlling the flow of war news / non news (e.g., coverage of the coffins of KIA being returned, government officials infrequently attending military funerals, the "mysterious" non combat related deaths of service women) keeps the wars on Iraq and Afghanistan less tangible and less of a thing to concern your self with. Governments, rulers and empires often distort suppress and manufacture information and news.

● Torture and kidnapping are the official policy of the United States government. The Geneva Conventions doesn't apply to us when it's "inconvenient." Can't waste all that experience gained in our police stations, jails and prisons!!

● Federalizing and mobilizing the National Guard, activating reservists, using the Coast Guard, the FBI—and who knows who and what else—in war efforts both money wasting and penny pinching that let scammers and contractors get rich.

● The Pentagon's new definition of war injury excludes any thing not directly caused by enemy ordnance. It's also downplayed service women being raped by male service members and ignored the rapes of service men by other service men.

Most of the population "supports the troops" only with bumper stickers. Just a tiny minority do practical things. These range from sending care packages, cards and letters to pilots using their own planes to reunite families with convalescing service people and people providing skiing and other recreational and rehabilitating activities. Others provide camps and counseling services to children with deployed parents or parents killed in action. All these citizens are extremely commendable, caring and truly patriotic.

As baby boomer vets become geriatric and make up a lower percentage of the homeless (mostly by dying off), younger vets wrestle with trying to start / restart their lives, navigating "the system" and fitting into a wounded economy. In the mean time, politicians and bureaucrats say they kept us "safe."

Some times it seems the last time veterans got a decent break was with the post World War II GI Bill. Maybe we'll do even better next war and just outsource every thing. Or, start a U.S. Foreign Legion. After all, cheap labor is good for the bottom line.

Essayist / poet/ photographer Horace Coleman lives in Long Beach, CA.
The second of three consecutive generations in his family who have served in American wars,
he was in the Air Force from 1965-70 and served in Vietnam from 1967-68.

Published in several anthologies, a number of literary magazines and at web sites,
Coleman has given lectures for the Modern Language Association and the Popular Culture Association.
He's taught at several universities and a community college and worked as a proposal planner,
editor / writer and document archivist, been a technical writer and a public information officer for a state health agency.

He is a member of VVAW

No pacifist, he hates unnecessary wars and bad moves.

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