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I just got back from Canada visiting a relative who is a WWII vet. Their vets home was 1/2 empty and also served as a regular nursing home. No Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, or Afghanistan. Just imagine...
From the article: "It was all but a given that guys my age would get our turn." At least with the draft, sacrifice was more shared than it is today when "[w]e're sending the same soldiers back to war five or six times or more." There's no shared sacrifice--Congress has not only abrogated its Constitutional obligation to declare war but has also refused to levy taxes to pay for military actions in which only a small percentage of the population is willing to serve.
I am happy for you Peter Smith, you have reconciled your service and feel no need to be thanked or recognized for what you did in Vietnam. I on the other hand don't mind it when someone says thank you for your service, because not only did I serve honorably as a US Marine in combat in 1967-68, twelve months and twenty days, during which 17,817 Americans were killed in action, I was not recognized or thanked back then. On the contrary, I was treated with scorn and ridicule, and sent into a deep depression that lasted for years. As a matter of fact, I would rather have someone say, I'm sorry for the way we treated you when you came home, and I am sorry for the way the VA continues to treat you.
...and just think, the Baby Boomer generation treated veterans like dogs...
Based on my own experience, I have this advice for veterans. Don't look back - don't look for gratitude. The rest of society just doesn't care. Take what you learned in the military and make it work in civilian life.
Re: "The rest of society just doesn't care." Not true, alanson. President Obama reiterated his support for those who have served in the military today in his Veterans' Day Speech. He's consistently called on Congress to fund healthcare and disability benefits which help veterans deal with emotional and physical effects of war now and in the future and to fund home loan guarantees, education and training which will help veterans transition back into civilian life as contributing members of society now and in the future.
Here's part of the President's speech: "We take care of our own. We take care of our veterans. We take care of your families, not just by saluting you on one day, once a year, but by fighting for you and your families every day of every year. That’s our obligation, a sacred obligation to all of you."
Mr. Smith summed up the feelings of this Viet Nam vet. Sure, I was there, in combat, controlling the guns from a destroyer, but it was those in the trenches including three high school friends of mine who gave their lives. Fortunately, I had none come home with debilitating injuries.
I saw a young woman in an Army uniform the other day. I went up to her and said, "thank you for your service. We HAD a commitment, you MADE a commitment. That is a far greater thing."
Sadly, our politicians, including Obama and Romney never served in the military. While Romney did his mission for his church which is highly commendable, he rattled his sabre as if he were a combat veteran. He hasn't a clue.
But he is not alone...fewer and fewer of our elected officials have not only not served in any way their children have not. Sure there are a few exceptions, such as Biden and McCain, but they are a minority.
How sad that after the Viet Nam experience we now have young people who want to do something for their country, yet there is no outlet. Too bad we didn't change the draft to be anyone 18 years of age or older. They wouldn't have to join the military but they could work in a hospital or any good public project. One thing, it should be a minimum of 200 miles from home so they aren't going home to mommy every night. Learn independence so we can keep our independence.
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