“God bless our troops.”
This weekend is Veteran’s Day weekend. The actual holiday falls on Sunday November 11, 2012 this year although most people have Monday off from work (If Veteran’s Day falls on a Saturday we would have Friday off). Sunday marks the anniversary of the signing of the armistice, which ended the World War I hostilities between the Allied nations and Germany in 1918. Veterans are thanked for their service to the United States on this day. Veterans Day is not to be confused with Memorial Day. Veterans Day celebrates the service of all U.S. military veterans, while Memorial Day is a day of remembering the men and women who died while serving.
I respect anyone who is willing to serve their country by putting their life on the line or pledging their career to support the armed forces. I appreciate the privileges they allow me to have in this country. I appreciate the things that they do but I believe I’ve stated that I could never join the armed forces. I have my reasons, mainly being a black man living in America. In my opinion Veterans Day and Memorial Day are the only two days in which America seems to give a damn about our troops and/or veterans.
Our government doesn’t place a priority on veterans once they return home from service. My laboratory is across the street from the Veteran’s Affairs (VA) Medical Center here in New York and since we collaborate with another lab that is located in that building I routinely make my way through the lobby. I see veterans of all ages who have probably fought in every war since the Korean War. I feel so sorry for these men and women, who served their country, put their life on the line to defend its constitution and freedoms only to return home and be cast aside by a child who is bored with an old toy because their parents bought them a shiny new one in the form of more wars and more young soldiers. Not a week passes where I don’t encounter a veteran who is jobless and homeless or a man on the subway telling his war-story to a train full of strangers. There is no reason why a man who put his life on the line for this country should have his country turn their back on him during his time of need.
In September the Senate Republicans stopped the The Veterans Jobs Corp Act, which would have created new job-training programs to help veterans find work in targeted fields such as national park conservation, historic preservation projects, police work and firefighting. Playing partisan politics and doing everything in their power to make President Obama look bad during election season, our government basically sh*tted all over our veterans. Way to support our troops. Its convenient enough for our government to salute our troops and thank them for their service two days out of the year but what about the other 363 days? We can put bumper stickers on our cars or ribbons showing how much we “support” the troops, but tomorrow I guarantee they’ll go back to being an afterthought in most of America’s minds, most notably our current lame duck Congress.
The fact that most of the training you receive in the military doesn’t translate into the real world as far as certificates, licenses, etc. bothers me greatly. For example, if in the military you were a medic who has been thoroughly trained, you might be better at your job than an EMT who was trained domestically. Not only did you have to perform your job well but you had to do it under the pressure of knowing that your life was in harm’s way. Even though you have that extensive training, once you get back stateside you can’t just apply for a job as an EMT because you don’t have the necessary licenses. This is a major disconnect that needs to be addressed.
How veterans are treated after returning from war is just one reason why I would never sign up to join the armed forces. I remember in high school we had recruiters visit our school and tell us of all the possibilities and great things we could do with our lives if we joined the military. They would pay for my education this one recruiter told me. “No thanks I already have a couple of scholarships.” I could travel the world. “I have a passport already.” I could proudly serve my country. This is the line that annoyed me the most. There was a time in this country where someone who looked like me couldn’t fight for his country along side a white man but I’m supposed to proudly do it now? Nope. I also remembered in high school my counselor told me when I turned 18 I had to register for selective service. I know that when those forms came I tore them apart and didn’t think twice about it. I’d rather be reprimanded or even serve time than be shipped across the world to fight for a cause I may or may not believe in. I’m not opposed to our troops in the least bit but I am opposed to war, especially unnecessary wars (read: our occupation of Iraq). Some may call me a utopian for having these views but I look at myself as an eternal optimist.
Do you think that veterans get a fair shake upon returning home from active duty? If not, what do you think can be done to help veterans more? Should our government invest more than $1 billion into creating job-training programs for veterans?