Veterans Day

Will you still want me after you’ve used me up?

“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.

Harsh reality of a lot of soldiers.

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?

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  • Well Enuff

    Do you think that veterans get a fair shake upon returning home from active duty?
    When I came off active duty, there where NO jobs available. I heard, "Thank you for your service" a thousand times but never, "I would like to offer you a job." Everyone does for others, so long as it doesn't impede their happiness or way of life. When you're coming from a world where you are conditioned to do the right thing regardless of your own happiness, it makes you sick to think how selfish and non-deservedly entitled so many people are. It's almost shameful how people act. It's akin to watching a car accident happen, say how bad that it was, and keep driving on.

    If not, what do you think can be done to help veterans more?
    When signing up for civil service work, there is something called "Veterans Preference." It means that those who have served are automatically put at the top of the pile for receiving the job they apply for. There should be some kind of equivalent system in the private sector.

    Should our government invest more than $1 billion into creating job-training programs for veterans?
    There should be, however there is only so much money to go around. If there were programs to be created, they should not be run by the VA. If anything, there should be programs forcibly created by private companies paid for by the government to ensure it is run properly, since the VA can't even handle the programs they have in place now.

  • Peter Parker

    Good Post. I definitely, definitely think any means of helping our veterans without question should be enacted. They put their lives on the line and as a country, we should do everything to support these men and women.

  • Larry

    " 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."

    #TheDailyShow ….gotta love Jon Stewart for using his platform to highlight examples such as this.

    • Larry

      Good post. I agree with all of it. The military is a great option with vast opportunities for a lot of people. I understand the reasons on both sides on whether one would decide to join. I never gave it serious thought, however, myself. Just wasn't for me. However, I personally know a few people that pimped the military out…did their 20 years, retired to a second career and banking good money/benefits. However, I understand everyone isn't as lucky or is afforded the same opportunities when in the military and that's a problem.

  • http://twitter.com/bumight @bumight

    I think the problem is finding jobs for veterans who join the military with little or no other qualifications. Yes, when they come back home they don't have the skills to integrate into civilian world, and all that military experience doesn't count for much except a "thank you for your service".
    I think the emphasis should be more on equipping veterans with skills that would translate into civilian world usefulness once their service years are over.
    Also, I think there's is now an emphasis on recruiting folks with college education and the like into the military. I don't think these folks should have much of a problem getting jobs in the real world.

    Then again what do I know? I'm just a lowly civilian :)

  • Slim Jackson

    I went to a military high school. When I was a senior, had the chance to go to West Point, Annapolis, etc. Could've done the ROTC thing and went to college free…but I didn't want that commitment. It wasn't free education if I had a 2-4 year commitment after I graduated. Coincidentally, a lot of the folks who took those scholarships ended up overseas…stationed in a couple places, but certainly not gallivanting around the world. Honestly, it wasn't worth the potential of paying by life if even in a distant command center.

    Veterans definitely get a raw deal. I've always wondered why so many of the homeless, wayward, etc. are ex-military. I've seen enough of it that I'd never recommend it as an option for anybody that didn't get a college degree first. And even if they did get a degree or were considering ways to get free schooling, I'd still not recommend it.

    Caveat: There are obviously a ton of government jobs for the Department of Defense that don't require traveling to danger zones and coming back to crappy circumstances. I would recommend one of those…but they come with their own set of requirements/credentials.
    My recent post slimjackson: Just discovered these Political Kombat videos -> President Obama Battles Donald Trump in Political Kombat <a href="http://t.co/GXuH058V” target=”_blank”>http://t.co/GXuH058V

  • gemmieboo

    great post. well put.

    i do think our military men and women get the short end of the stick when they are off active duty. i really wish our government would do more and better at giving them more opportunities to get jobs. esp when THEY ARE ALREADY TRAINED. smdh.

  • Brodie

    Do you think that veterans get a fair shake upon returning home from active duty?

    I separated in 04 and finding a job related or unrelated to my rate was relatively easier than it is now. The Post 9/11 GI Bill is a fantastic incentive and user friendly. The home and small business loans leave a lot to be desire but it mostly the extra paperwork and inspection that can be a headache. VA Medical Center have the worst ER. Sat 6 hours in the waiting room to be diagnosed with Bronchitis and then called the next day to be told it was actually Pneumonia.

    If not, what do you think can be done to help veterans more?

    Transitions with more emphasis on the job placement. I also agree with giving veterans prior for civil service positions. The TAPP classes are okay but they should be longer and have more material for entrepreneurship and education.

    Should our government invest more than $1 billion into creating job-training programs for veterans?

    For vets who've separated, retired vets have their pensions. No shade to retirees.

  • Dalton

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