How is our government treating our troops?

What has Bush and the Republican administration done for the quality of life of our bravest in recent years?

  • They assured everyone the Iraq war would end in “weeks rather than months”.
  • VA staff ordered to avoid diagnosing returning heroes with PTSD in order to save money! [This is beyond the pale – I get a very visceral, disgusted reaction every time I think about this.]
  • 1,000 Iraq veterans attempt suicide each month. Or at least 1,000 attempts are reported – how many go unreported?
  • 18 military veterans succeed in killing themselves each day, 5 of whom are under the care of the VA.
  • Burdened troops with 3, 4, sometimes 5 deployments to combat.
  • Extended tours from 12 months to 15 months.
  • 60,000 troops who completed contractual obligations have been stop lossed, meaning forced back into involuntary service.
  • Soldiers and families have been forced to buy and ship to Iraq basic equipment like body armor and walkie-talkies because the government was too cheap to spend the money, even though they have no problem spending $800M per week on corrupt contractors.
  • Soldiers lost sign up bonuses because they weren’t valid if the soldier is injured in the first month.
  • Soldiers made responsible for paying for new helmets when old helmets were lost in battle.
  • One soldier who lost his helmet was sued for $12,000, even though he had massive brain damage.
  • Hired contractors like KBR who gouge the soldiers with $45 six-packs of Iraqi-produced coke while providing contaminated water.
  • The wholesale selling out and exploitation of Pat Tillman and Jessica Lynch with fabricated, pro-administration propaganda for political and recruiting gain.
  • Wounded soldiers being warehoused in the mold-infested crack den-like conditions of Walter Reed.
  • Crippling red tape for wounded soldiers needing medical benefits.
  • Parents draining life’s savings, 401(k)s going dead broke to pay for wounded soldier’s hospital care.
  • Previously healthy young men sent to their wedding severely burned and disfigured.
  • [Added 5/27] “Nearly a third of female veterans say they were sexually assaulted or raped while in the military, and 71 percent to 90 percent say they were sexually harassed by the men with whom they served.”
  • [Added 5/28 ] Service of LGBT folks worthless in the eyes of the Pentagon; two LGBT service members fired each day. But felons are serving in record numbers – who a soldier loves or sleeps with is more important to the brass than a soldier’s character.

What the hell are we asking of these people?

This is too much. If we set aside the arguments of the war being fraudulent and discussion of the current mission’s worth for just a minute, can most people see that we have failed these men and women in almost every conceivable way? How can you ask a young person to put their life in harm’s way in Iraq and Afghanistan but not guarantee that soldier the basic security of free access to the best health care this country can offer and a livable disability pension? How can any soldier have the trust and the confidence to seek the mental health and psychiatric care they need when their own government told caregivers to intentionally misdiagnose soldiers in order to save a few bucks? How do soldiers not look at the taxpayer-funded opulence of KBR, Haliburton, and Blackwater and feel betrayed by the nickel-and-dime games played with military health benefits? How much does the government value the actual person behind the uniform?

Voices on the right love to pay lip service to the exalted position of veterans in our society; but when a Republican administration is charged with looking after our loved ones in the military, it performs disgracefully. Furthermore, Republican leaders Bush and McCain balked at the idea of a modest revamp of the GI Bill that called for an extra 0.4% in the pay raise and extra benefits for college. I sit here writing, speechless. The government is abandoning people they sent into gruesome, traumatizing conditions; why aren’t these people shown how much they are valued? And I don’t mean shown using verbal platitudes or holiday parades, I’m speaking in terms of addressing  their material conditions and knocking down all road blocks to personal security in combat, to medical care, to mental health, and financial security for those who come back injured allowing them the freedom to pursue the best life possible.

A Republican vote this year sends the clear message that you tolerate the Bush & Co-inflicted conditions endured by many soldiers. How can anyone who values our service men and women reward this abhorrently bad and indefensible behavior by Republican leadership with a vote for four more years of Republican presidency? I know McCain is a veteran and all, but he represents the party who created the conditions that allowed these policies and behaviors to flourish. As a conservative, we can fully expect McCain, a war hawk who sees Iraq going on for at least 4 more years, to appoint and hire people who subscribe to the same philosophies and policies of the last 8 years.  Why would you reward the people responsible for failing our soldiers and their families with the chance run things for another four years?

More coverage of military suicides:

Editor & Publisher:

NEW YORK On Memorial Day this year, many press reports focus on the fallout from the current war, not past conflicts, as was long typical. Much in evidence, after years of being virtually ignored, is the frightful surge in suicide among Iraq vets both here and in Iraq…. One suicide just this week involved Chad Oligschlaeger, a Marine who was found at his barracks at Twenty Nine Palms in California. His family said he was on eight medications for PTSD and had been sent back to Iraq for a second tour after asking superiors for help, which he allegedly did not get.

Reuters:

FORT BLISS, Texas (Reuters) – U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates Thursday said the military had made mistakes in its treatment of returning combat troops including in their physical and mental health care and by providing some sub-standard housing.

Las Vegas Sun

:

The House last week passed legislation named after Justin Bailey, the Las Vegas High School graduate who was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and overdosed after checking himself into a VA hospital, where he was given a supply of medications to administer himself.

The bill, which the Senate has not passed, includes a provision by Democratic Rep. Shelley Berkley that will require the VA to assess procedures at its mental health facilities, including oversight and distribution of prescriptions, and report back to Congress.

McClatchy:

According to family members and police reports, on Feb. 20, 2007, just a few months after being discharged from his second tour of duty in Iraq, [Sgt. Brian] Rand smoked half of a cigarette as he wrote a suicide note, grabbed a gun and went to the Cumberland River Center Pavilion in Clarksville, Tenn. As the predawn dark pressed in, he breathed in the wintry air and stared out at the park where he and his wife, Dena, had married.

Then he placed the gun to his head and silenced his inner ghosts.

Fort Worth Star-Telegram

:

On July 11, 2007, in a violent Baghdad neighborhood, Master Sgt. Jeffrey R. McKinney killed himself. He put his M-4 rifle to his neck and pulled the trigger.

The Army Times:

But everything changed July 11 in the bright sunshine of Adhamiyah, Iraq. That day, while out on a simple meet-and-greet patrol, McKinney stepped out of his Humvee and yelled.

“F— this!”

He raised the barrel of his M4 to his chin and squeezed off one shot.

The first sergeant — who sang Sesame Street songs to his men and teased them just enough to make them feel like family — left his soldiers shattered.

At first, they scrambled to find the sniper who they believed must have fired the shot. When they realized the truth, they wondered how Top could have deserted them.

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One response to “How is our government treating our troops?

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