Monday, November 12, 2012

After the parades?

I was honored to wear the U.S. Air Force uniform for four years, '54-'58, and was personally thankful that was not ordered into harm's way into combat. There were many times I had felt so guilty, and so I decided to embrace our military war heroes, and do what I can to recognize those heroes who have done so much to afford all Americans the freedom we enjoy today, and also help in anyway I can to help them fit into today's world.

Two years ago I buried a friend, 91 years old, who served honorably in WWII. He was awarded the Silver Star, Bronze Star, Purple Heart, and many campaign ribbons. Sgt. Stan, as we affectionatly called him, served in the Pacific Theater, and served in many combat missions.

Another friend of mine, whose son is married to my daughter, served in Vietnam, and is also the recipient of the Silver Star, Bronze Star, and Purple Heart. He retired from the U.S. Marine Corpse as a Major, and spends most of his time locating and recognizing Marines who served in Vietnam. A book, "Lions Of Medina" has been published highlighting this brave Marine's military heroism.

Today, I spent nearly three hours with a retired Sergeant First Class, who recently moved into our neighborhood. He served for thirty years in the U.S. Army, with two tours in Iraq and one tour in Afghanistan. He told many stories of his combat missions, as he spent over twenty years as a Green Beret, and was classified as an expert marksman, serving as a sniper. Many of his injuries went unreported as he was involved in covert affairs, but he told me of how his body had endured parachute jumps, long marches, and flying shrapnel. Because he was involved in covert operations, some combined with the Navy Seals, he could not be awarded any medals, but was awarded "Special Accomodation & Achievement" awards. He received fifteen of them. As he said, "you don't get these for doing KP, or driving a bus".

I could write forever on the attributes of these three war heroes, and what's amazing is they all have one thing in common. To them, what they did was, "not heroic...just doing our job".

America needs stronger approaches to our military heroes. Think this out: A young man or woman enlists in the military and sacrifices so much, even their life at times, to protect the freedom of all Americans. It seems we stick a gun in their hands, tell them to go out and fight for us, and then when they come home it seems just we think a yearly parade is enough.

Our military heroes deserve so much more than a yearly parade. They gave their all to protect the freedoms we so richly enjoy in this country. And yet in comparison our military heroes are not given what we truly owe them.  Can you imagine that several thousand military heroes that once fought for all Americans now live under bridges.

Is it right that currently there is an estimation of nearly 150,000 veterans that have spent time in an emergency shelter or transitional housing program?  Maybe the most disparaging statistic is that on one single night in January, 2011 it was reported that nearly 70,000 veterans were homeless. Is this the way we treat men/women who were willing to die to protect us?

Our heroes are completely and easily forgotten; almost like an anti-war stigma. Ask any teen-ager today who Justin Beiber or Lady Gaga is, and they'll quickly respond. Then ask them who Audie Murphy or George Patton was. I'm sure they'll just give you a dumb look.  Bruce Springsteen makes millions writing and singing songs about how horrible wars are. Bruce never wore the uniform and has no right to degrade our military. Maybe if he ever wore the uniform he would've understood the plights of our military heroes, instead of just acting like Hanoi Jane Fonda.

Yes, the Veteran's Administration is doing all they can, but they need more professional help to properly assist our veterans.  It's not enough to just thank a vet for their service, or give them a yearly parade, or place a wreath at Arlington Cemetery. Our homecoming war veterans just want to function in today's world, take care of their families, and move forward. As my new neighborhood friend and returning veteran remarked, "it seems easier to go on welfare, and get food stamps, than it is to get veterans' benefits".

So today folks, please think of what you can do, however small, to help a veteran fit in our world today. Just to thank them for their years of service is not enough. Do what you can. They deserve it for the sacrifices they gave for all of us.

And that's Politics with Pete for today....God Bless our country...and our troops


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