Not unless you hold ‘em on Desolation Row.
Don’t throw veterans an Iraq victory parade
By Colby Buzzell,
After all, the Super Bowl champion New York Giants got one this past week, complete with 30 tons of confetti falling from the Manhattan sky.
…“We simply don’t think a national-level parade is appropriate while we continue to have America’s sons and daughters in harm’s way,” said a spokesman for the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
“I’m not all that concerned with parades, not in a big city or a small town, at halftime or any other time. What concerns me is the day after the parade, the day after the Sept. 11 anniversary events, the day when the flags are put away and America stops cheering and it’s back to business as usual. That’s what scares me.
“Less than 2 percent of Americans serve in the military, and for them, a parade would be just another superficial acknowledgment of a sacrifice that has not been shared and certainly not celebrated. Some people argue that it’s a way to show support for the troops, some argue that it’s premature since there’s still a war in Afghanistan, and others argue that Iraq and Afghanistan are different fights.
“While all this arguing is going on, veterans are struggling. In this country, an average of 18 veterans commit suicide every day. The jobless rate for Iraq and Afghanistan veterans is as high as 15 percent. They are trying to find work despite having been labeled ticking time bombs, unable to assimilate back into society, plagued with post-traumatic stress.
“Later this month, on an evening like any other in America, nearly 70,000 veterans will spend the night on the street …”
Cassi Creek: We woke up to find blowing sleet and snow at 0600. Gloria decided to stay home rather than to drive into Johnson City for a class on engraving. We have been treated to falling temperatures, more snow, short intervals of blue sky, and 15-20 MPH winds from the NW. We had planned to dine out tonight but Gloria isn’t feeling up to par and we’ll celebrate the occasion another day. Instead, we’ll hunker down and let the wood stove do the heavy heating, as much as possible. That will require a series of trips outdoors to bring in large, cold, segments of former trees to convert into heat and ashes. The dog is happily stretched out in front of the stove, moving only long enough for me to add fuel before reclaiming her space.
The purpose of a victory parade seems antiquated now. We are no longer actively waging war on our home real estate, we conquer and keep no ground, expending lives in order to occupy it temporarily as if doing so will change the attitudes and behaviors of those shove aside. We hope it will, for we know it matters all too little back in the world where IEDs no longer serve as traffic signals.
Perhaps 2% of our populace now has shared the commonality of a barracks and weapons in our hands every waking hour. The rest have no idea that a parade marks a transition, a change of command, honors afforded to a comrade, or other symbolic event. The end of continental or global wars deserved a parade to mark the end of those wars and to honor the troops who took entire nations and held them long enough for new governments to be established. But those reasons no longer exist except in the reality of soldiers, sailors, and airmen. The military leadership knows that the world has changed diametrically since the late days of 1945. Ideological control of nations now replaces seizing land masses.
With the change in why and how we fight wars one would expect a change in how we treat our troops. But it has become easier for the masses that no longer serve to also no longer recall. Mountain View Veterans’ Affairs Hospital began its existence as a home for men who fought the civil war and then wound up homeless, jobless, and of no use to society. We no longer make pretence of helping our soldiers who saw too much. There is no public concern for the “shell-shocked,” “battle fatigued,” or those with PTSD. They are expected to absorb the cultural and emotional shock to their minds and bodies and to pick up their lives at the point where they hopped off the civilian routine and into the meat- grinder of modern combat.
Some of us manage to return to civilian life and to become “normal” and productive. Others find that the return is not as easy or as complete. PTSD can hide for long periods, surfacing, creating havoc and discord before being shoved back under for another genie in the bottle existence.
During a recent physical, I mentioned to my primary care doctor at VA that I wasn’t sleeping well – something that was a marked change for me now. She ordered consults and I went to the appointments. I’m sleeping better again most nights. There’s no way to decrease the shoulder and neck pain that is a partial cause of my insomnia.
Unlike many VietNam veterans, I’m fortunate to be sleeping indoors, eating regular meals, in a loving marriage. I spent most of my life after VietNam working in a technical job; retiring only due to work-related injuries. I have no addictions, and I receive regular medical care.
I’ve lived with PTSD for 44 years now. No parade, no free steak dinner in San Francisco, no amount of ethanol and war stories in a VFW bar would have prevented it. The military is beginning to realize that everyone who serves in combat is going to undergo some degree of PTSD. The Joint Chiefs are correct. It is not time for a parade. It is time for Congress to understand that they authorized the conflicts that are going to tear another generation of troops apart at the hidden seams. They need to quit allowing lobbyists for Halliburton and other profiteers to drag us into wars. They need to value our steadily diminishing numbers of men and women in uniform as the heroes the truly are.