Veterans Day 2015: Taking Care of Our Brightest and Best

thEUJQ6XTLPROLOGUE: D-Day, also called the Battle of Normandy, was fought on June 6, 1944, between the Allied nations and German forces occupying Western Europe. To this day, 70 years later, it  still remains the largest seaborne invasion in history. Almost three million troops crossed the English Channel from England to Normandy to be used as human cannon fodder in an invasion of occupied France.

Among the young men who stepped off those boats, in a hail of gunfire, was a fellow named Edward, whom everyone called Ned, from the small town of Helena, Arkansas.  Already in his young life, Ned had been forced to drop out of school in the sixth grade, in order to work at the local movie theatre to help support his mother, brother, and sister, faced with the ravages of the Great Depression.

He was a gentle man who loved to laugh and sing, having recorded several 78 rpm records in the do-it-yourself booths of the day. And now, he found himself, a Master Sergeant in an Army Engineering Unit, stepping off a boat into the unknown, watching his comrades being mercilessly gunned down around him.

Ned, along with the rest of his unit who survived the initial assault, would go on to assist in the cleaning out of the Concentration Camps, bearing witness to man’s inhumanity to man.

The horrors he saw had a profound effect on Ned.  One which he would keep to himself for the remainder of his life.  While his children knew that he served with an Engineering Unit in World War II, they did not know the full extent of his service, until they found his medal, honoring his participation in the Invasion of Normandy, going through his belongings, after he passed away on December 29, 1997.

He was my Daddy.

Today is a day in which we honor the service of those who have severed in our Armed Forces.

Those who have unselfishly and heroically served must be remembered 365 days a year, as  Col. Charles D. Allen (ret.), has written in the following special Op Ed for the Army Times:

As Veterans’ Day 2015 approaches, our active-duty, reserve-component, and former service members are closely watching the ongoing Capitol Hill budget debates. For the fourth successive year, the U.S. government is operating under another continuing resolution.

This CR for fiscal year 2016 pushes the next funding crisis to early December and could trigger government shutdown.

We remember vividly the October 2013 shutdown resulting from sequestration measures required by the Budget Control Act of 2011. Once again, not only are health care and entitlement programs in jeopardy, but so is the readiness of our force charged with securing U.S. national interests.

Uniformed and civilian employees of the Defense Department fear that manpower cuts in the defense budget will leave them in the ranks of the unemployed. One can understand their apprehensions about joining the ranks of our older veterans.

While our society continues to hold the military in high regard, veterans remain at greater risk than their non-serving counterparts for unemployment, homelessness and suicide. Those leaving military service return to a society that is continuing to recover from the economic recession of 2008-2009. As the national unemployment rate for 2014 averaged 6.0 percent, post-9/11 veterans were holding at 7.2 percent.

Many of them are from the junior ranks. They bring fewer skills and less non-military experience to the competition for civilian jobs. Their disadvantages will be more evident during the coming force reductions. And the unemployment rate for all veterans is higher than the national average. Even more distressing, the jobless rates for women and African-American post-9/11 veterans are 8.5 percent and 9.5 percent respectively.

Nonetheless, homelessness among veterans has declined somewhat toward the national goal to eliminate veterans’ homelessness by 2015. In 2011, the Departments of Veterans Affairs and Housing and Urban Development jointly reported to Congress that 19 percent of the nation’s homeless adult population were veterans and that more than 75,000 veterans had no shelter on any given night. The 2014 Annual Homelessness Assessment Report informed Congress that this number had dropped to nearly 50,000 and that 11.3 percent of the homeless population were then veterans. Again, female and minority service members were more likely than other veterans to be homeless. So our veterans remain overexposed to the plight of having no shelter.

The suicide statistics are most disturbing. In 2010, VA estimated that 20 percent of suicide victims in this country are former service members. Through 2007, post-9/11 Army veterans’ suicide rate was about 50 percent higher than their demographic peers in the general population. Though some may believe war trauma is a major factor, suicides among non-deployed post -9/11 veterans were 16 percent greater than among those who had deployed.

As our veterans are celebrated in parades and television special programs and as they are treated to free meals on Veterans’ Day, we must affirm our nation’s obligation to care for our veterans. DoD must keep the faith with military members and their families by preparing for their inevitable return to society. The specter of unemployment, homelessness and suicide should not be the legacy of military service.

Our nation must always demonstrate that it values the sacrifices of its veterans. This commitment extends far beyond a single day that originally commemorated the victorious conclusion of a war that was to end all wars. U.S. veterans still face wars on the homefront, and we must help them to find peace.

On November 11, 1985, President Ronald Reagan gave the following remarks at Arlington Cemetery after laying a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

Secretary Weinberger, Harry Walters, Robert Medairos, reverend clergy, ladies and gentlemen, a few moments ago I placed a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, and as I stepped back and stood during the moment of silence that followed, I said a small prayer. And it occurred to me that each of my predecessors has had a similar moment, and I wondered if our prayers weren’t very much the same, if not identical.

We celebrate Veterans Day on the anniversary of the armistice that ended World War I, the armistice that began on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month. And I wonder, in fact, if all Americans’ prayers aren’t the same as those I mentioned a moment ago. The timing of this holiday is quite deliberate in terms of historical fact but somehow it always seems quite fitting to me that this day comes deep in autumn when the colors are muted and the days seem to invite contemplation.

We are gathered at the National Cemetery, which provides a final resting place for the heroes who have defended our country since the Civil War. This amphitheater, this place for speeches, is more central to this cemetery than it first might seem apparent, for all we can ever do for our heroes is remember them and remember what they did — and memories are transmitted through words.

Sometime back I received in the name of our country the bodies of four marines who had died while on active duty. I said then that there is a special sadness that accompanies the death of a serviceman, for we’re never quite good enough to them-not really; we can’t be, because what they gave us is beyond our powers to repay. And so, when a serviceman dies, it’s a tear in the fabric, a break in the whole, and all we can do is remember.

It is, in a way, an odd thing to honor those who died in defense of our country, in defense of us, in wars far away. The imagination plays a trick. We see these soldiers in our mind as old and wise. We see them as something like the Founding Fathers, grave and gray haired. But most of them were boys when they died, and they gave up two lives — the one they were living and the one they would have lived. When they died, they gave up their chance to be husbands and fathers and grandfathers. They gave up their chance to be revered old men. They gave up everything for our country, for us. And all we can do is remember.

There’s always someone who is remembering for us. No matter what time of year it is or what time of day, there are always people who come to this cemetery, leave a flag or a flower or a little rock on a headstone. And they stop and bow their heads and communicate what they wished to communicate. They say, “Hello, Johnny,” or “Hello, Bob. We still think of you. You’re still with us. We never got over you, and we pray for you still, and we’ll see you again. We’ll all meet again.” In a way, they represent us, these relatives and friends, and they speak for us as they walk among the headstones and remember. It’s not so hard to summon memory, but it’s hard to recapture meaning.

And the living have a responsibility to remember the conditions that led to the wars in which our heroes died. Perhaps we can start by remembering this: that all of those who died for us and our country were, in one way or another, victims of a peace process that failed; victims of a decision to forget certain things; to forget, for instance, that the surest way to keep a peace going is to stay strong. Weakness, after all, is a temptation — it tempts the pugnacious to assert themselves — but strength is a declaration that cannot be misunderstood. Strength is a condition that declares actions have consequences. Strength is a prudent warning to the belligerent that aggression need not go unanswered.

Peace fails when we forget what we stand for. It fails when we forget that our Republic is based on firm principles, principles that have real meaning, that with them, we are the last, best hope of man on Earth; without them, we’re little more than the crust of a continent. Peace also fails when we forget to bring to the bargaining table God’s first intellectual gift to man: common sense. Common sense gives us a realistic knowledge of human beings and how they think, how they live in the world, what motivates them. Common sense tells us that man has magic in him, but also clay. Common sense can tell the difference between right and wrong. Common sense forgives error, but it always recognizes it to be error first.

We endanger the peace and confuse all issues when we obscure the truth; when we refuse to name an act for what it is; when we refuse to see the obvious and seek safety in Almighty. Peace is only maintained and won by those who have clear eyes and brave minds. Peace is imperiled when we forget to try for agreements and settlements and treaties; when we forget to hold out our hands and strive; when we forget that God gave us talents to use in securing the ends He desires. Peace fails when we forget that agreements, once made, cannot be broken without a price.

Each new day carries within it the potential for breakthroughs, for progress. Each new day bursts with possibilities. And so, hope is realistic and despair a pointless little sin. And peace fails when we forget to pray to the source of all peace and life and happiness. I think sometimes of General Matthew Ridgeway, who, the night before D-day, tossed sleepless on his cot and talked to the Lord and listened for the promise that God made to Joshua: “I will not fail thee, nor forsake thee.”

We’re surrounded today by the dead of our wars. We owe them a debt we can never repay. All we can do is remember them and what they did and why they had to be brave for us. All we can do is try to see that other young men never have to join them. Today, as never before, we must pledge to remember the things that will continue the peace. Today, as never before, we must pray for God’s help in broadening and deepening the peace we enjoy. Let us pray for freedom and justice and a more stable world. And let us make a compact today with the dead, a promise in the words for which General Ridgeway listened, “I will not fail thee, nor forsake thee.”

In memory of those who gave the last full measure of devotion, may our efforts to achieve lasting peace gain strength. And through whatever coincidence or accident of timing, I tell you that a week from now when I am some thousands of miles away, believe me, the memory and the importance of this day will be in the forefront of my mind and in my heart.

Thank you. God bless you all, and God bless America.

Barack Hussein Obama is  present our Armed Forces Commander in-Chief (unfortunately).

The responsibility for everything that happens to the men and women serving in our Armed Forces, in which some part of our federal government is involved, both during and after their service, falls on his shoulders and his alone.

Honestly, he seems more intent on granting amnesty to illegal aliens and bringing Syrian Muslims to our shores than looking after those who have risked their very lives under his command, only to come home to a Veterans Administration, in which the hospitals are ill-managed and much-needed assistance, both medical and social, is hard to come by.

This mistreatment of our Brightest and Best, whom he seems to view as subjects for Social Experimentation, continues to happen under his watch.

And, he must answer for it.

Until He comes,

KJ

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