Ask any older American what they believe is the finest contribution one can make for their country and the answer will undoubtedly be to serve one's country in the military. To place your life in danger in defense of the nation and all that it stands for is the highest sacrifice an American can offer.
The veterans from the second World War, the Korean "War" and the "War" in Viet Nam were provided with the GI Bill. This act was for those men and women who, instead of continuing their education or beginning their careers in the marketplace, devoted a large part of their youths standing ready to defend their country. They gave up the chance to have a youth in order to serve that higher calling.
In exchange for that sacrifice, the American government deemed it only fair to provide educational assistance, help in purchasing that family home and lifetime medical benefits for those injured in the line of duty and for those who were too poor to afford that support. Many veterans, this columnist included, attained the education needed to go forward in life with the help of the GI Bill. The government's help buying that home was usually the only way to convince a bank to loan the veterans the money they needed. And, sadly, for so many veterans of the Viet Nam "War" in particular, the availability of medical care through the Veteran's Administration was all that stood between them and a slow death from Agent Orange and all of the other maladies they brought home, including the depression handed them by an unforgiving and hateful populace when they returned.
The GI Bill has proven itself to be one of the very few government programs that paid for itself many times over. There were literally hundreds of thousands, if not millions of veterans who acquired the education, then the better paying jobs and then paid the government back many times with their taxes and lessened reliance on federal programs. The housing industry has found tremendous profit in serving our veterans and the jobs that have trickled down helped make the 50's, 60's and early 70's some of the best decades in America's economic history.
So how are we as a nation treating our veterans these days? Are we still trying to find some way to repay our children when they make that huge sacrifice for us?
Of course not! In fact, we are acting in exactly the opposite way. We are in the process of abusing these grand examples of the American citizen.
Ever since the 1982 budget, early in the wondrous "Reagan Revolution", the budget for the Veteran's Administration has been cut year after year. Veteran's hospitals across the nation have been closed and the availability of services cut drastically. Even the use of pain killing drugs have been scaled back simply because of the shortage of funds.
The 1998 budget and beyond doesn't improve the situation, either. In fact, in many ways it adds insult to injury. Rather than replace some of the lost funding, nearly all of the various department's budgets are either frozen or scheduled for even more cuts. For example, the spinal chord injury section, one whose need for funds and research keeps growing, is scheduled for five years of exactly the same level of funding.
Is this how we should be treating the very Americans who gave up their bodies for our freedom? Do you honestly feel that you deserve the tax cut that Congress is going to offer when you know that there are men and women living in horrendous pain in America's veterans hospitals? Don't you think it's time to stop crying about the taxes we pay and start thanking the very people that have insured the freedom to snivel and whine? Instead of hating the President for his sin of not serving in the military, isn't it time to acknowledge those who did?
If our government doesn't begin to show its willingness to support our troops after the cameras have dimmed and the nation's attention span has been exceeded, I would advise our children to do precisely what our President did. Keep getting your education, kids, because it is becoming painfully obvious that your nation will use you for their petty political objectives, then ignore your suffering forever after. Not a good career goal.
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