May 30, 2011

My standard for Memorial Day:

“Lord our Father, our young patriots, idols of our hearts, go forth into battle — be Thou near them! With them — in spirit — we also go forth from the sweet peace of our beloved firesides to smite the foe.
O Lord our God, help us tear their soldiers to bloody shreds with our shells; help us to cover their smiling fields with the pale forms of their patriot dead; help us to drown the thunder of the guns with the shrieks of their wounded, writhing in pain; help us to lay waste their humble homes with a hurricane of fire; help us to wring the hearts of their unoffending widows with unavailing grief; help us to turn them out roofless with their little children to wander unfriended in the wastes of their desolated land in rags and hunger and thirst, sports of the sun flames in summer and the icy winds of winter, broken in spirit, worn with travail, imploring thee for the refuge of the grave and denied it —
— From The War Prayer, by Mark Twain.

(Illustration found here).

Right now, on this particular day, there’s more than 100,000 US troops in Afghanistan and another 50,000 or so still in Iraq, supposedly waiting for the end of this year when ALL US military personnel are scheduled to leave (operative word here,”scheduled“).
And the killing’s not going away.
Eight US GIs were killed in Afghanistan just this past week — nearly1,600 killed in the nearly decade-long conflict, the big chunk of that total, 650 in all, just in the last two years alone — and in Iraq 25 killed so far this year.
And for what…?

The scream this Memorial Day should be for those who did return home — those veterans are in bad shape and despite all the flag waving, memorials, parades and barbecues, the future looks shitty for them.
In a post at, aptly titled, Memorial Day in Wartime, Kelley B. Vlahos, touches upon this post-conflict situation while war continues apparently unabated.
This on the veterans:

In September 2009, researchers were predicting that 35 percent of returning veterans could be diagnosed with PTSD in the coming years.
Meanwhile, the suicide rate among veterans is about 6,000 a year, a rate veterans organizations say is at “epidemic proportions” and “out of control.”
According to a report last week, the VA’s suicide hotline logged a record 14,000 calls in April alone.

And yet, how many people know, as they’re flipping their burgers and watching their parades today, that on May 10, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled that “unchecked incompetence” by the Department of Veterans Affairs has led to poor mental health care and slow processing of disability claims for veterans?
Thus, the majority wrote (.pdf), the VA was violating veterans’ Constitutional right to care in return for their service.
Seems that “gearing up” of capacity at the VA never happened.
Veterans For Common Sense and Veterans United for Truth filed the lawsuit against the VA in 2008, alleging that due to backlogs, waiting lists and inadequate services, “hundreds of thousands of men and women who have suffered grievous injuries fighting in the ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are being abandoned.”

“I was on CNN in 2006. At the time, the number of (Iraq and Afghan) patients at the VA was 200,000.
I said it would hit 400,000 and (CNN host) John Roberts looked at me as though I had a horse with wings and had just flown in from fairy land,” said Sullivan (Paul Sullivan, executive director of VCS).
“We are now at the rate of 10,000 patients a month; we are at 650,000 as of December 2010.”
He predicts 1 million patients by 2014, and “more than 50 percent will be mental health patients” with a total cost of $1 trillion to meet all the health care and benefits over a lifetime.
The war, he said, is “costing a fortune.”
“You know what?” he said when asked about the prospects for prolonged war overseas, “ bring the troops home and take care of them.
We will not abandon our veterans again, no, no, no, no, no.”

War is bullshit.
Death never, ever takes a holiday, just ask Maj. Erica Iverson, a casualty assistance officer for the 2010 death of Staff Sgt. Adam Dickmyer of Winston-Salem, North Carolina:

Iverson’s voice choked as she recounted how Dickmyer’s mother fell off her chair in grief when her son’s body returned to the U.S.
His widow chased after the casket, screaming: “Don’t leave me!”
“His wife has an empty house,” Iverson said.
“His entire unit came home today, and he didn’t come with them.”

A memorial to…what?
Bring! Them! Home!

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