SacrificeMay 28th, 2006 -- Lt. Col. Fred Seamon (ret.)
I have an established Memorial Day ritual that I have followed since moving to the California Coast more than a decade ago. Each Memorial Day I slip away from family and friends for about an hour and head to the beach. There I find a quiet spot where I recall comrades who were killed in action in Vietnam while we were serving there in 1967-68.
This year I will continue my ritual, but I will also include in my thoughts our young men and women who have been wounded in Iraq. I have been preoccupied with them since last week when I was an organizer and participant in a local Armed Forces Day parade. This year we had special guests, seriously wounded young men and women undergoing rehabilitation at a nearby VA hospital.
After the parade, as I reflected on the time I spent with these typical young American servicemen and women and saw what they are going through, I became quite angry. One word, sacrifice, kept popping up in my mind. It seems to me that our military, including regulars, reservists and members of the National Guard, are the only Americans who have been called on to make sacrifices in what the Bush Administration calls the Global War on Terrorism (GWOT). And they are suffered inordinately because of the grossly incompetent manner in which the war has been conducted by civilian Bush appointees, who not only lack military experience, but avoided service during Vietnam, and have disdained the advice of our uniformed military leaders.
Since George W. Bush declared “Mission Accomplished” on May 1, 2003, we have suffered 2,323 killed (prior to that time only 137 were killed in action) and about 17,650 wounded. Would we have suffered these casualties had the Bush Administration taken the advice of our military leaders and attacked Iraq with sufficient troops to secure the peace according to plans drawn up by Central Command and the State Department, which it disdained?
Who else, aside from our men and women in uniform, has been called on to make wartime sacrifices? I can’t think of anyone. Our taxes haven’t been raised to pay for the war. Unlike World War II, there is no rationing. A draft has not been reinstituted to provide fresh manpower to the military.
Only our volunteer military forces that face frequent deployments to Iraq have been called on to make sacrifices. It is not uncommon to find soldiers returning for their third tour in Iraq in only the fourth year of the war. These deployments wreak havoc on military family life. The heavy demands of sustained ground combat are also depleting military manpower and equipment faster than they can be fully replenished and leave the military unprepared for either natural disasters or deployment elsewhere.
I am especially angered by Bush’s claims that he supports the troops. He initially failed to support them by sending them undermanned and ill-equipped to win the peace in Iraq. Now, in the name of deficit reduction, he is failing our wounded and veterans by asking them to make sacrifices for our country and then reneging on a commitment to provide them with lifelong healthcare.
In a war that the Congressional Budget Office projects to cost $691 billion ($811 billion including Afghanistan), the Bush Administration can’t seem to find the relatively small amount of money needed to support our disabled and aging veterans. It has consistently underfunded the VA healthcare system so that long-term care services have been cut back and the waiting time for care has become excessive for many veterans. It has recommended closing local clinics, introducing enrollment fees and co-payments, which particularly impact older, poorer vets, and will probably force many of them to drop out of the system. It attempted to redefine the American Psychological Association definition of PTSD and restructure veterans’ compensation to reduce growing healthcare costs. Only the strong opposition of veterans’ organizations and Democrats has prevented the Bush Administration from gutting the VA healthcare system
I could go on, but I think from the above that it is abundantly clear that our men and women in uniform and their families who are being asked to make exceptional sacrifices are not being supported by the Bush Administration.
So this Memorial Day, I ask you to remember the fallen and thank our men and women in uniform for their service by opposing the Bush Administration’s attempts to limit VA healthcare.