Leaders must support troops with action, not just words

Monday, November 19, 2007 | 10:00 a.m. CST; updated 7:59 a.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 22, 2008
Rose Nolen

Anyone who was an adult when the Vietnam War ended in the 1970s should know that America’s veterans are not treated well by their government. All that lip service by politicians about supporting the troops is just that. It does not translate into passing appropriations bills that address the medical or physical needs of people after they leave military service. Parents who encourage their sons and daughters to enter the military and vote for these people do so because they are decent, law-abiding citizens who have been conditioned by their families, the education system and society to believe that these politicians are sincere. They know that the Constitution is a unique and exemplary document, and they have been indoctrinated to believe that their elected officials will honor that document. This is the way civil obedience has been maintained.

The country’s leaders may have behaved that way in the early days of the country’s founding, but just as the world has changed, so have individuals. Now, I truly believe that the overwhelming majority of American citizens today are decent individuals who have been duped by the business community and the politicians. It is the only way I can figure out why some folks would be willing to establish sanctuary communities for illegal immigrants and allow veterans who have fought to preserve this nation to sleep in the streets. Some people may not understand post-traumatic stress disorder, but everybody can understand how one may suffer mentally from the effects of losing limbs to a bomb. What kind of people will accept the fact that, according to authorities, 25 percent of the homeless population are veterans?

This does not fit the profile of the kind of individuals we love to tell other countries that we are. People of the world read our newspapers and watch our television stations, and they know we are not who we claim to be. Of course, we are disliked by many foreigners. Who would want to associate with folks who mistreat their wounded? Yet our leaders stand up in front of everybody and spout propaganda about our good Christian nation and how generous and humane we are while we all sit around and pat each other on the back.

Not having a military draft makes it possible for people to be indifferent to those who voluntarily fight the wars. And since the majority apparently does not wish to reinstate the draft, if we are going to continue to engage in preemptive strikes against every country on the planet with whose leader we disagree, we may have to create a standing army of mercenaries. Hopefully, we can convince them to sign contracts releasing us of any responsibility for injuries they might suffer, and they will agree to pay for their own life insurance. That way we can just dispatch them to various locations to deal with our enemies and then get on with our busy lives.

I didn’t have the heart to go to any parades or activities associated with this year’s Veterans Day. I didn’t want to hear the speeches, especially from those members of Congress who have the power to make the necessary changes to upgrade veteran’s benefits. I recently completed writing the memoirs of a Purple Heart winner from the Korean War and I give these politicians credit for being a stronger person than I am. When I recorded the details of his injury from an explosive device and listened to him tell how he continued to work throughout the night helping other injured soldiers make it to the medical facilities, it was hard to remain dry-eyed.

Those who amaze me are the big-name television anchors who listen to the politicians talk about the wars every day and claim they are surprised on hearing about the homeless veterans. I’d like to know where they have been for the last thirty years and how it happens that people reporting on wars don’t bother to investigate the status of those who fight them.

I would like to recommend that people do themselves a favor and visit a veterans hospital and talk to some of the patients. It will give the uninitiated an opportunity to meet some real patriots — people who have put their bodies where their mouths are. After that, people can go home and write their representatives about the need to improve veterans’ benefits.

Individuals who want to add Iran to the list of countries with whom we will engage in armed conflict had better be sure they can find an army of the willing to do the fighting. Ruling the world does not come cheap in terms of money or warm volunteer bodies, and I think America is running short of both.

It’s getting harder and harder to be a citizen of the only country in the world that feels worthy and qualified to run everyone else’s business. Obviously, everyone knows that we are one of the few countries righteous enough to have nuclear weapons, don’t they?

The notion that our young men and women are risking their lives on the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan to support this kind of arrogance is unbearable. When will it end?

You can join the conversation with Rose M. Nolen by calling her at 882-5734 or e-mailing her at

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