Tuesday, March 22, 2016

What 'support' do we offer our troops?

The mantra “support the troops” is ubiquitous. You see it daily — on TV, in newspapers and magazines, parades, flyovers, ceremonies honoring veterans and every possible sporting event, including both college and professional.
The Department of Defense has spent $53 million from 2012 to 2015 in advertising and marketing with $6.8 million at professional and college sports events and NASCAR. “Support the troops” — what does it mean?
Vietnam veterans returned home from another war started with lies, having been exposed to Agent Orange and other herbicides.
The human toll on our troops from Agent Orange has been well documented. How did we respond? Denial and neglect seem kind.

Gulf War illnesses were prominent after George H.W. Bush’s Iraq war. Our troops suffered from a number of different illnesses after they returned home. Those who risked their lives for the U.S. were met with the same denial and neglect from us and were unable to get treatment for the various maladies stemming from that war.
And now from author Joseph Hickman we have learned of “The Burn Pits,” which were used from 2001-09 in more than 200 military bases in Afghanistan and Iraq. They were used to dispose of “every type of waste imaginable,” including trash, plastics, medical waste, toxic materials such as tires, batteries, asbestos, pesticides, insulation and even human corpses.
Some of these burn pits were built on ground that had been contaminated by mustard gas and other poisonous stockpiles.
Our veterans exposed to these burn pits are now coming down with cancers, brain tumors, all kinds of respiratory problems and a plethora of other health difficulties. Our response to these veterans continues to be consistent with our past, and denial and neglect defines it.
Our veterans have returned from Afghanistan and Iraq with head injuries/brain damage, depression, PTSD, alcohol and drug problems, and a host of other difficulties.
The suicide rate of these veterans is unbelievable, and for the first time ever, there have been more suicides by the veterans than the number of those actually killed in these wars. Homeless veterans are a visible testament to our denial and neglect.
We send our (mostly) young people to war and to fight and to kill and be killed with hardly a thought other than “support the troops” and a misguided (delusional?) notion that we do it for “freedom” or “God” or whatever other reason we use to justify it. We have sent them to kill between 20 million and 30 million people since World War II and have poisoned and destroyed the people and countries where we have sent them.
And we have poisoned our own troops. Approximately 85,000 of our troops have paid the ultimate sacrifice in that same period. Many of those who return have visible and invisible injuries and trauma and disease, and we respond with our typical denial and neglect.
Surely “support the troops” has to mean more than ostentatious displays of our military prowess at sports events and flyovers. Surely it has to mean more than speeches and parades and occasional “thank-yous” to our veterans for risking their lives. Surely it has to mean more than flags and lapel pins.
Surely “support the troops” has to mean that we take our role of sending our troops to wars much, much more seriously and question whenever the drums of war are starting. Surely “support the troops” has to mean that if we send people off to war, then we have to take responsibility for their care when they return.
Surely “support the troops” means that we need to demand that our sons and daughters get all the mental and physical care they so richly deserve.
— Glen Stovall, Salina, is a father and grandfather.

No comments:

Post a Comment