Wednesday, August 09, 2006

When the soldiers come home...

I was reminded last night that while our news media have done their best to persuade the American public to oppose the war in Iraq, they have done very little to ask people to help the soldiers who have sacrificed their limbs in our service. Whether you agree with the war or not, the service people who represent our country in overseas conflicts alter the course of their lives by taking wounds which deprive them of hands, arms, legs, and other portions of their bodies.

My father, after he retired from the U.S. Army, took a Civil Service position as a physical therpist on an Army base. During the 1960s and 1970s, he helped to rehabilitate soldiers who returned from Viet Nam. I remember watching those soldiers quietly move along through hospital corridors and from building to building in wheel chairs, on crutches, wrapped in bandages, missing limbs, eyes, and parts of their lives.

While many wounded veterans go on to live productive, generally happy lives, it's no coincidence that as a group they experience higher rates of substance abuse and suicide than many other groups of people in our society.

Serving in Iraq can be a very thankless job. American citizens, watching their favorite television news sources, reading their favorite print or online news sources, rarely see how the rest of the world perceives us. While American citizens are often warmly welcomed by other peoples, American soldiers may be viewed with suspicion, disdain, and open hatred.

One group of soldiers in Iraq "adopted" an Iraqi orphanage operated by The Missionaries of Charity, the order founded by Mother Teresa (whose career is not without its critcs). The American soldiers brought gifts to the children and visited them. But one day Iraqi insurgents told the sisters that if they ever saw American soldiers playing with the children again, they would kill all the children.

While this kind of insane behavior goes on in Iraq all the time (remember that Al Qaeda is determined to drive us out of Iraq by killing as many Iraqis as possible), our soldiers were hardly proselytizing the children. They were just attempting to show some compassion for people whose lives they have affected in many ways.

American citizens ask why we can't send more teachers and doctors to Iraq. Well, the truth is that most of our teachers and doctors would be slaughtered by the insurgents if the insurgents had their way. All that stands between such slaughter and the survival of our people in Iraq are the American armed forces and their Iraqi counterparts.

If we have paid a heavy price for a conflict that will be questioned and challenged for decades to come, the Iraqi people have paid an even greater price. But they cannot turn their heads aside and ignore the needs of their wounded people because every day brings new wounded people.

Americans, on the other hand, are more concerned about when our troops will come home (which in itself is a worthy desire, so long as we don't have to turn around and send them back) than they are with ensuring that those soldiers who have not only come home already but who are also suffering permanent disabilities from their service in Iraq receive adequate care and opportunities to move on with their lives.

The United States government has established the America Supports You Web site for all our service people, but there are many American citizens who -- perhaps because of media bias, Mel Gibson movies, or whatever -- don't really trust their own government. I won't even go there, but if you want to know more about how you can actively help support our troops -- especially those who have made great physical sacrifices while serving in Iraq -- visit Wounded Warriors.

The Wounded Warriors organization was founded in 2003 to provide direct assistance to soldiers returning from Afghanistan and Iraq who have been disabled by wounds received in conflict. It's a little known fact, I think, that our government provides only limited medical and rehabilitative services to soldiers and veterans. The increasing cost of operating a government has a lot to do with that, but mostly the pork-barrel spending that our elected Congressmen and Senators engage in constantly (during peacetime and wartime) has come in part at the expense of veterans.

Every year, my father has seen his benefits gradually erode despite serving this country through World War II, the Korean War, and part of the Viet Nam War. He devoted over 24 years of his life to the U.S. Army, but the U.S. government's thanks usually amounts to, "Dear U.S. Veteran, the Congress of the United States, in collusion with the President, has determined that your services -- no longer being required -- are worth less to us this year than last year."

We may not have the Federal budget to take care of our wounded veterans, but we can certainly do something more directly. I will continue to promote Wounded Warriors here and across the Xenite network for the foreseeable future. In a few days, I'll add banners to our rotation of advertising (most of which is for non-commercial content on the Xenite network) that promote Wounded Warriors and help make people aware of this vital service.

I have long been a critic of American foreign policy. I feel we create more animosity and distrust throughout the world by our short-sighted pursuit of "key American interests" than by any other program our government or society implements. But I will never mistake the faithful service of our military personnel for anything other than an act of love by Americans and future American citizens for their fellow citizens.

Jesus told his disciples that the greatest thing a man can do is give his life for his friends. Over 2100 Americans have made that sacrifice for our friends in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as for us here at home. We don't yet have to constantly worry about whether our buses will blow up, or if it's safe to stand in line at the grocery store, or if our children will be slaughtered in school. Maybe, just maybe we'll find a way to keep ourselves from becoming that vulnerable to terrorism.

But for now, we have many wounded warriors who have returned from the wars abroad, who need our help. Because of modern technology and medical science, some of those wounded warriors who would have given their lives for us are still here. We should not forget them. We should not hide from them. We should not wait for the Senators and members of the House of Representatives to stop catering to their special interest groups and put real American needs at the top of their selfish agenda.

We can support our troops now, especially the ones who have come home for good because of the sacrifices they have made on our behalf.

1 Comments:

Anonymous JJ Lassberg said...

Michael,

Thank You, Thank You, Thank You... I am truly moved that our conversation at NetSquared has inspired you and I so appreciative of the energy you are devoting to the Wounded Warrior project.

Much Love, Light, Laughter, Beauty, Peace and Joy...

~ JJ Lassberg

2:51 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home