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Those Who Served

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By the time this hits the stands Memorial Day will have come and gone. The rains that invariably take at least two days out of every Memorial Day holiday weekend will have passed and the sun will have returned to North Idaho.

Our annual fundraiser to support the local DAV van will have been completed. We will once again learn that the people of this area are very generous and truly appreciate the sacrifices made by our regional veterans. I tip my cap to all of those volunteers who stood in front of local supermarkets and ‘shook their cans’ so that our veterans could avail themselves of the services offered at the VA Medical Center in Spokane. Without the van that drives area veterans into Spokane, many of our local vets would not be able to receive these services. Thanks to all who donated on Monday, the 27th. Your area veterans are thankful for your support.

A couple of small things have crossed my desk in the past few days. One was a picture from the National Vietnam Veterans Art Museum in Chicago. Suspended 24 feet above the main floor are over 58,000 dog tags engraved with the names of all of those who perished in that conflict. Small air currents in this large, open atrium area cause these dog tags to act like wind chimes. I’ve not heard them but it has to be a hauntingly eerie sound that fills the building. The 10-by-40-foot sculpture, entitled ‘Above & Beyond’, was designed by Ned Broderick and Richard Stein. The work was installed for Veteran’s Day in November 2010. I find the work very moving and on par with my involvement when the ‘Moving Wall’ visited Sandpoint way back in July of 2001. A docent with a laser pointer can point out the dog tag of any name of those 58,000 plus individuals. 

The second item that crossed my PC screen was a small email that has made the rounds several times over the years prior to almost every Memorial Day and Veteran’s Day, but it never fails to make me proud to have served my country.  

“We remember those who will not be in church or synagogue this weekend so that we may worship in the manner we choose...

“We remember those who no longer have a say in government so that we may make our selections every November...

“We remember those who will never again spend another moment with their families so that we may enjoy freedom with those we love.”

Let us honor in our thoughts and prayers and by our words and actions those who did not go gently into their final good night so that we may continue to sleep and rise under the blanket of freedom.”

Another item that came to my attention was this note from the VA. It talks about co-payments for those of us receiving our medications through the VA and Express Scripts. The following is a quote from that document. “This document adopts as a final rule, without change, an interim final rule amending the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) medical regulations to freeze the copayments required for certain medications provided by VA until December 31, 2013. Under that rule, the copayment amounts for all enrolled veterans were maintained at the same rates as they were in 2012, which were $8 for veterans in priority groups 2-6 and $9 for veterans in priority groups 7 and 8.” After plowing through the verbiage I believe it means that for the rest of 2013 there will be no increase in the co-pays for drugs. I hope I’ve interpreted this correctly as every dollar counts.

Since this is the post-Memorial Day holiday article, I think it is imperative that we briefly touch upon the most recent generation of veterans. The less than 3 percent of the U.S. population who have ever worn the uniform of our Armed Forces are owed a tremendous debt by the other 97 percent who never have. Our elected leaders —at every level—seem to have trouble remembering this fact. Our current crop of the best and brightest have, for the past 12 years, made sacrifices that most of the rest of the country can’t even imagine. These young men and women have endured hardships that all but a very few of their fellow countrymen will ever face.

What is the reward these American heroes receive? Months—even years—of delays in the VA’s processing of their claims and benefits. We have a U.S. Congress that insists on spending money like drunken sailors on the weapons of war but balk at paying the bills for wounds and injuries resulting from the use of those weapons. Our parsimonious Congress would rather spend huge amounts of money on newer, unnecessary, weapons systems than build medical facilities for the results of the wars we’ve been fighting for 12 years. 

From May 20 to May 24 this year the House has been holding hearings on a new VA proposal designed to clear a large part of the backlog by the end of June. It may be a long, slow process but apparently some progress is being made. Anyone interested in seeing a video of these hearings can go to the following link: http://veteransaffairs.edgeboss.net/wmedia/veteransaffairs/2013/130522.wvx. We can but hope that things will get better over the short term for our newest generation of veterans. I am somewhat heartened to see attempts being made to rectify what I think is a national embarrassment. It is about time.

These same bunch of venal, self-absorbed, elected representatives refuse to make Americans safer at home by making it more difficult to obtain a gun in this country than those checks that determine who can carry a gun in defense of this country. Fact: the background checks conducted to be allowed to carry a rifle in the military are more rigorous than those that can allow a felon to buy a gun at a gun show or online. It doesn’t make a great deal of sense to me that we are more concerned about who we send overseas to carry out national policy than we are about children and college students here at home. When more than 85 percent of the nation’s population—including a large majority of gun owners and sportsmen—support a broadening of background checks to gun shows and online sales that seems it should outweigh the opinion of the 15 percent who think that this is an infringement of their constitutional rights. 

My hope is that over the next months the Background Check bill that was defeated by the troglodytes comes back to either the House or the Senate and that the GOP finally realizes that they are completely out of step with the majority of the American people. We can but hope. 

Until next month take a minute or two to think about the freedoms you have and remember those who sacrificed so much so that you can enjoy them.

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Author info

Gil  Beyer Gil Beyer A 21 year Navy veteran, lived in Bonner County for over 30 years, Past Commander of the Priest River DAV Chapter and admitted news junkie.

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veterans, Memorial Day, Veterans News

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