Every year we mark this day as one to remind us of the many sacrifices that American men & women from every generation have made on our behalf in order to keep this nation free.
This year, let us remember all of the promises we made to those who have sacrificed so much in order to make and keep our nation the bastion of freedom it has always been.
The first colonial soldiers fighting the British Empire. Their victory help create this nation and its promise of freedom. It took 40 years for congress to commit to finally pay pensions to veterans of the Revolutionary War; pensions they had been promised during the war in order to drum up enlistment. By then, the War of 1812 had also finished and unfortunately, at that time our government did not yet collect taxes, so that promise continued to go unfulfilled.
The Union and confederate soldiers fought in our only civil war whose result was the first step towards correcting one of our nation’s greatest evils; the freeing of the slaves. Old soldiers homes were created, but it took 13 years for the federal government to allow pension claims to be filed by the nearly 200,000 jobless & homeless veterans who returned from the war to an economy without any jobs.
As a result, Union Army veterans banded together to form an association called the “Grand Army of the Republic” which became the driving force behind a tremendous surge in veterans rights bills over the next 40 years and whose work was largely to be credited for the eventual creation for the Veterans Bureau. It’s a shame it was our own soldiers themselves that had to fight another battle at home in order to convince us as a nation to take care of those who had sacrificed so much for us.
During World War 1, our nation found renewed strength in the realization that as a nation we could be a significant power for good throughout the world. We threw the returning soldiers parades and heaped honors upon them, yet the structure for caring for the returning soldier’s medical needs fell disastrously short. Our Country’s answer to battle trauma in those days was to lobotomize any who had trouble dealing with life after war. Did you know that the first director of the Veteran’s Bureau (created after Word War 1) was terminated within two years and was later sentenced to prison and fined on charges of conspiracy to defraud the government? Not an auspicious start to say the least, but sadly it would be an often repeated failure of the VA.
It was also in 1932, during the great depression and the immediate aftermath of World War 1 that Major George S. Patton led the last mounted charge of the US Cavalry… Against homeless veterans protesting the “Bonus bill,” in which congress promised payment to veterans of the war, but with a 20 year delay.
Our brave soldiers also returned from World War 2 to a hero’s welcome. Veterans of this conflict were treated with reverence and society stood them up as pillars of our nation and as a result of the ongoing public outcry due to inadequate care, the GI Bill and other veteran’s services were finally created in order to more effectively attend to the needs of those veterans. Of all the veterans up to this time, Veterans of our Second World War were the most effectively treated and cared for.
Veterans of the Korean War were extended the same care and benefits of those of World War 2 and relatively few problems that were not already systemic came to light during that era.
Veterans of the Vietnam War became the most publicly abused and mistreated of all veterans; President Nixon raided and slashed the VA budget on numerous occasions and into the Carter administration, benefits and funding began to vanish and Federal agencies went out of their way to discriminate against them; refusing to acknowledge Agent Orange exposure even existed. This would become our nation’s most shameful legacy…
Both Gulf Wars & Afghanistan: Although the general public respects and admires the service and sacrifices of today’s veterans, our government has begun to slide back into a habit of organizational abuse: Once again slow to acknowledge wartime ailments such as what is now called the Gulf War Syndrome and PTSD, many structural changes were made to the VA that were intended to make it more efficient and effective starting in the early 1990’s. Some of these changes updated the technology behind the VA’s many systems throughout the country which did give the VA the physical ability to become more efficient and effective, but once again the people within the VA became the primary problem. The VA grew into a monstrous bureaucracy with very little, if any oversight.
More recently, an atmosphere of indifference towards the military fostered by President Barack Obama’s own distaste for the military has lead to widespread fraud and a general disregard for veterans spread throughout many branches of the federal government. Evidence of even wide-spread abuses within the VA system began to emerge again, in numbers not seen since the Vietnam era. It became common once again for veterans to wait many years for the VA to acknowledge legitimate claims for both medical care and other benefits, leaving many soldiers feeling abandoned by the country they fought and sacrificed for.
Political battle over cutting funding for veterans benefits began to eat away at our confidence that our government would ever keep it promise to the veterans of today. As recent as the last few weeks, evidence has surfaced that has been reported which points to widespread fraud and abuses within the VA which are reported to have caused as yet untold deaths among Veterans needing medical care. Fake waiting lists designed to hide unusually long wait times for critical medical treatment. Exorbitant and unwarranted bonuses and frivolous spending has been found within facilities unable to fund basic care for veterans in need…
The list of broken promises to our nations heroes is growing longer every day, the resignations within the VA will not raise those veterans who died at the hands of the own caregivers.
The next half-hearted utterances issued by our President will not undo the incredible damage to loved ones and families he still refuses to acknowledge. President Barack Obama spent more time on his final-4 picks than he has communicating with abused veterans and families of veterans murdered by indifferent policies his malignant attitude towards all Veterans has encouraged.
As a nation our President represents us. As a nation our President is the face of our honor, our integrity and our hope… As a nation, we have failed the heroes of our time and our President is leading the charge against our bravest and brightest; our brothers and sisters and mothers and fathers. Our President has abandoned those high moral principles he swore to uphold and has spat upon the face of our veterans time and time again.
Our legacy of shame lives anew in the visage of the man who holds our nation’s highest office and all of those who serve at his pleasure and enable his policies. The fruits of his policy of indifference towards our veterans are just now beginning to show in the deaths of our nations veterans and in the massive scandals blossoming forth from the VA itself.
And but for a proud few; as a nation we have yet to do anything but stand aside and watch it unfold… Unmoved, unstirred and apparently uncaring: United we stand, our integrity stolen, our honor besmirched, our heroes forgotten…
We build today, our nation’s greatest failure, one of apathy and indifference…
On this Memorial Day…
A little not-so-light reading: