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Veterans' News

The treatment of veterans

When I told Trish that I would try to write this column on a regular basis I had no idea where it might take me. I wanted this column to have value for area veterans and to, hopefully, elicit some discussion on issues of importance to veterans throughout the country. I was, in essence, walking into something blind. I read all of Joe’s articles and was taken by his passion for the way we have treated those that we send off to defend America.

Our national track record on the treatment of returning veterans is checkered at best. Those hundreds of thousands who came home after World War II received the hero’s welcome they had earned and deserved. With the passage of the GI Bill a new dynamic came into being in this country. With the passage of that bill an entire new class of Americans was created. Prior to World War II the people who went to college and became the leaders of business and politics were the sons of the wealthy. The GI Bill gave lower and middle class veterans ready access to institutions of higher learning and is directly responsible for the creation of an entire new class—an energized, upwardly mobile, educated upper-middle class. Now, that is the way we should treat those that we send into harm’s way.

Since that high water mark the national treatment of our returning heroes has been spotty at best. During the Viet Nam war we had numerous incidents of our veterans being spat upon and cursed as they got off airplanes in various American cities. These men and woman were not responsible for the sins of their leaders in Washington. It was the worst example I can think of ‘killing the messenger’. We are still paying for this travesty with higher costs for prisons and mental hospitalizations. We have thousands—maybe tens of thousands—of veterans who have ‘dropped out’ of society and are non-participatory in their communities. Of course World War II was a ‘popular war’. After all, we were saving the world from fascism. The war in Viet Nam never was a ‘popular war’ and the people we sent there paid a terrible price to their psyches and their value in our society.

I believe that the way we treat our veterans reveals a great deal about our nation’s values and views. We should NEVER send our young men and women into harm’s way without a clear threat to our nation—never! The previous administration sent our best and brightest into Iraq with a misrepresentation of the threat involved to our national security (I won’t call it a lie even though I believe that the invasion of Iraq was based on a clear distortion of the truth). I firmly believe that we should never sacrifice our national treasure on a political whim—these young men and women deserve much, much more from their political leaders.

Last month I spoke of Senator Coburn holding up a bill that would provide benefits for those caring for the severely disabled coming back from Iraq and Afghanistan. I mentioned that the junior Senator from Oklahoma appears to have no problem with funding wars—his objections appear to be in dealing with treating those who return from those wars. He, and his cohort from Oklahoma, Senator Inhofe, appear to be totally committed to supporting our troops in the field as long as it doesn’t provide for an exit strategy from that conflict. Idaho’s senators—Crapo and Risch—appear to be in the same boat as Coburn and Inhofe. They have, and will, vote to fund the wars but not so much when it comes to supporting veterans’ benefits and programs.

It seems to me that if you are eager to send people to war you should be eager to support those who have done what you asked of them. Our serving military personnel are the best we have. They perform honorably, tirelessly, under adverse conditions and ask very little of us in return. They have given their best and should be given our respect and best in return.

I’ll close this piece with a short paragraph or two about my uncle. Arthur H. Lauer Jr, died in June 2007—finally succumbing to the cancer that he fought for a long time. He was a veteran from the Korean War period. To the best of my knowledge he never left CONUS but he served. He wasn’t a warrior—he was a musician who was attached to an Air Force band. That doesn’t and mustn’t diminish the value of his service—he served. And that is more than 90-plus percent of today’s population can say. After his discharge from the Air Force he went on to a highly successful career in the music field and was quite well known in the Chicago area and beyond. One of his many contributions to society is that he wrote the original music for McDonald’s ‘Big Mac’ jingle way back when. I believe that he was still collecting residuals on that piece of work when he died.

Why am I writing about a relative who died over two years ago? Well, simple. I just learned of his passing the other day. He led a very quiet and isolated life—focusing on his music to the exclusion of family. He made his mark where he choose to make it. I doubt that ‘veteran’ was one of the descriptors he used for himself but he was a veteran and I’m positive it did contribute to who he was.

May all enjoy a Happier New Year and may you always remember that the freedoms you enjoy were granted to you by the people that have worn the uniform of the United States Armed Forces—regardless of the job they did while in that uniform.

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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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