Mainstream media have given little coverage to the official end of combat in Afghanistan, which means even fewer American people took notice. To the families of service men and women, especially mothers, it is bitter sweet. Yes, we are happy that there is less possibility for our children to be deployed and killed, but we are concerned about their welfare. There is little to no discussion on what our children need to end the combat that is going on in their heads.
What happened to all those people who put yellow ribbons on their tress and stuck “Support Our Troops” stickers on their cars? How about all those good folks who verbally and physically assaulted anti-war protestors, calling them unpatriotic? I ask myself, Where is their cry now, to support and take care of these hundreds of thousands of our troops and their families? Where is their demand to allocate adequate funds needed to help these service members regain their lives, to help restore their families to a state of normalcy?
In February of 2014, Senate Republicans blocked a $21 billion plan to build new VA clinics because they said it was too expensive. In May of the same year, the House Ways and Means Committee advanced a bill that would give businesses a 10-year $600 billion tax cut. So $2.1 billion a year over 10 years to provide better care for our veterans is too expensive, but $60 billion a year over the same time period is affordable as long as the money is going to the business sector. Where are those yellow ribbon-waving “Support the Troops” people now?
As a citizen of this nation – especially if you supported the war – you have the responsibility to make sure that the war truly ends for the troops sent out to fight. That the combat in their heads also ends. “Thank you for your service” comments are mere lip service if they are not followed by action that ensures ongoing care. The kind of care our returning troops need cannot be some standard one-size-fits-all practice, but specialized attention that addresses the varied and repeated traumas they have experienced.
There seems to be more concern about the Afghan people: Will they survive? Will there be setbacks? Will democracy hold? What about our sons and daughters, who have endured multiple deployments, heinous injuries, and the lingering after-effects of post-traumatic stress disorder? Is this the America that proclaims herself to be so humanitarian, that leaves her sons and daughters to suffer daily with the war that does not end for them?
Few Americans realize the continuing burden of these wars, the lingering effects they have on veterans and their families. These include high rates of suicide and mental illness, increased drug and alcohol dependence, high incidence of violence, including homicide, child abuse and neglect, appalling rates of homelessness and divorce, and clinical levels of stress among the children.
I call out to each and every citizen – and to all those people with the yellow ribbons on their trees and the stickers on their cars – I say to them, Now is the time for you to be out in the streets. Call your members of congress and demand that our homebound warriors get the necessary funds to provide the loving care which will end the combat that goes on day after day in their heads. That’s the way to “Support Our Troops.”
Photo: The weekend of October 8 & 9, 2011 during Fleet Week along The Embarcadero, at Pier 41, in San Francisco at the IVAW (Iraq Veterans Against the War), VFP (Veterans For Peace) & Civilian Soldier Alliance table. Judith Sandoval, Associate Member, Veterans For Peace, San Francisco Chapter 69.