Saturday, August 29, 2009

Are Veterans like brackish puddles to be stepped over by America's privileged?

By Walter Haan, www.war-books.com

I was at the VA on Friday to see my doctor. She prescribed medicine and I had to wait 30 minutes for it. I've waited longer at CVS for prescriptions that were called in hours ago.

When I went to the window to receive the medicines, the pharmacist asked my address just to be certain the medicines were going to the right person. So I gave her my address, including my town.

As I waited at the elevator to go down to the ground floor, another veteran in the waiting room, 10 to 15 years younger than me, asked for a ride to my downtown. I agreed to drop him off.

We talked while I drove. We both had been at Fort Gordon for training. We both have had the same illness recently, and the VA is treating him. He's had Hep C, doesn't have a car or job. His first wife died of Hep C. He had liked being in the military because it gave him direction and had grown up on the streets of the Bronx.

I felt very sad after dropping him off. He was in the military after the Vietnam War ended in the mid 70s and I would guess that nothing has gone right for him since the military.

It made me think of the current crop of American servicemen now in Iraq and Afghanistan. I wondered what their lives will be like 15, 20 years from now without education, without association or connections with men and women from other sections of society. Probably not that good.

But this is what happens when we don't have a draft and the privileged of this country allow, even encourage, men and women with limited futures to enlist for death, injury or even more questionable futures after they serve. And of course we've lost 40+ men in Afghanistan this month, making August 2009 the deadliest month for American troops in that country in years.

I've seen headlines recently that ask whether Afghanistan will be Obama's Vietnam. That's the wrong question. It should be: Will America be even more divided, the haves versus the have nots, 20 years from now, with ill, homeless veterans from Afghanistan and Iraq roaming our streets. And will privileged Americans continue to step over our veterans in inner cities as if they were brackish puddles? My bet is they will. --Copyright 2009 by Walter Haan; www.war-books .com

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