A Veterans Day Unlike Any Other
“I think now, looking back, we did not fight the enemy; we fought ourselves. The enemy was in us.” — CHRIS TAYLOR IN “PLATOON”
The U.S. is locked in an intractable war in Iraq that never should have been fought. It is led by a government that embraces torture, spits on the very freedoms that its armed forces are fighting to protect, and uses these men and women as political pawns. Americans are deeply disillusioned. Our world standing is at low ebb. If anything, the homeland may be even more vulnerable to a terrorist attack than it was before 9/11.
I note that:
* Times of war always put strains on the systems that are supposed to assure that veterans get the physical and mental health care and other support they need. But these are not typical times and those systems are underfunded, overworked and near collapse because of hubris and neglect.
* One of every four of the homeless people in our midst is a veteran, including a shocking number of women. How could we have let this happen?
* When veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan tell their stories to their children, will they be able to do so with the same pride as World War II veterans? If not, why not?
* Vietnam veterans still havenâ€™t gotten their tickertape parade.
A perverse consequence of this malaise is that it is easy to forget that the veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as the wars of the past, deserve to be honored more than ever.
And so on this, Veterans Day 2007, please pause to do so.
I had the privilege of covering a good many big stories during a long newspaper career. The visit of a diminutive woman by the name of Phan Ti Kim Phuc — better known as “The Girl in the Photograph” — to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C., on Veterans Day 1996 would seem to pale in comparison to the Clinton impeachment circus or O.J. Simpson trials, to name two of the biggies, but it is one that I cherish.
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