We interrupt this scrapbooking blog for something a little more substantial and certainly more important.
First of all, let me just get one thing out of the way. I admit that since the enlistment of my brother into Uncle Sam's Army, I no longer have any objectivity when it's comes to the military. I know I should have cared more before he enlisted--just by virtue of being a good American-- but I didn't. I was uninformed and that was irresponsible and wrong. The situation is being remedied. And fast. Army Andy's enlistment got the ball rolling, for me. He made something that used to be another topic on the news very deeply personal.
Maybe you saw the recent news coverage about the dispicable conditions Army hospitals in the US are experiencing. I watched some of it (as much of it as I could handle) and agree--it's a disgrace. As a medical care consumer, I wouldn't tolerate those conditions for myself or my children, why should I let it be "enough" for our soldiers?
Maybe you listened as I did to the gut-wrenching Perspectives report by ABC news that recounted to story of a soldier who returned home from Iraq with a severe Traumatic Brain Injury. Did it make you cry to hear that he lost months of rehab progress becasue of a simple paperwork problem? It made me cry in the Publix parking lot. He's somebody's brother and husband and father. He's an American soldier. This should not have happened. And how many other times has it happened that we don't know about?
Not caring for returning soldiers is beyond disgraceful. I'll have to pull out the big dictionary to find a word that is strong enough to express how wrong this is. When I consider all the stupid things we pay for with tax dollars in this country, it makes me ill to think of the thousands of soldiers who have already or will in the future return home to find that the United States is not prepared to give them the medical care and support they need and deserve, and in many cases, were promised as part of their compensation plan.
It's plain wrong.
I don't care if you support the war. I really don't. Support it or not, but it *is* on-going and our soldiers are doing the jobs they are called to do. When they need medical attention--whether at home or abroad--I believe that no expense should be spared to get them the medicines and medical care they need. An American soldier is an American soldier, whether he's fighting a war you and I "believe in or not".
It shouldn't matter.
What can be done?
Write (or email) your congressional delegation. Let them know that this is unacceptable. Those billions of tax dollars that they so freely spend...those belong to us. Make your voice be heard.
Support para-government organizations that are supporting veterans. Not just with your money, but also with your time.
Participate in local projects that are supporting our soldiers, in the field and their families at home.
There is no reason for these attrocities to be so common. Our government can and must do better. People are always calling for more government oversight of this and that. Why are we not over-seeing our government, in this area?
Don't forget--by the people. If we are going to claim the priviledge of being a United States citizen, we must shoulder our part of the responsibility for seeing that our government fulfills it's obligations.
Below is a snippit of a speech made by Senator Maria Cantwell, the honorable Senator from the Great State of Washington that I thought was particularly poingnant. The Senator is alligned with the Democratic Party, and is not in favor of the war, however, she is speaking the truth about caring for returning soldiers.
Don't skim it.
We must remember that we have to honor our commitment to our troops—the U.S. military who have sacrificed so much. And no one here on the Senate floor will ever forget the awful cost of war. In Iraq, the loss of nearly 2,500 members of our armed forces, and I’m deeply concerned about the 18,000 that have been wounded.
And just as our troops have been stretched to the limit, it’s time for us to realize that our capacity for veterans’ health care has also been challenged. Based on credible projections from the Independent Budget, composed by Veterans Service Organizations, the federal government is under-funding veterans’ health care by at least $2 billion and the demands on the system are growing.
In March, the V.A. told congress they are seeing 38 percent more Iraq war veterans than they had budgeted for. So what's the impact? Some veterans are waiting more than 18 months just to get access to V.A. health care, and thousands of others across the country are waiting for access to care. As of the last month, more than 2,900 veterans in Washington state were waiting over 30 days to gain access to outpatient care that they deserve and have not been able to get because we have not adequately funded the veterans’ health care system.
Some experts suggest that one-third of the soldiers coming home from Iraq seek mental health services, and we need to make sure that we are adequately funding mental health. A lack of capacity in the veterans’ mental health system has caused a V.A. official recently to remark that when it comes to mental health the waiting list renders care virtually inaccessible. I believe this is unacceptable and that we have to do our job and do not shortchange veterans’ health care. We must give those who have stood up for us the access to care that they deserve.
Thanks for indulging me.