Why has America Forgotten her Patriots?
Patriotism is defined as zealous love for one’s country. Realizing that patriotism takes many shapes and designs I thought it would be interesting to put an old veteran’s perspective on what a Patriot is.
A Patriot is a person who reacts to a call to duty, gives his life, liberty and pursuit of happiness a new direction. The patriot is not defined by ethnic background, religion, or even by life style. The Patriot comes from all walks of life and joins the military for his own personal reasons.
The Veterans of WWII were to large degree draftees, but we must remember millions of Americans met the call and volunteered. They received probably the greatest gift that could get them into civilian life the GI Bill. Millions took advantage of that gift and our country prospered. But, then there is the wounded and those who stayed for the promise of the benefits to come, especially those of head trauma, referred to as shell shock, combat fatigue, cracking up, or whatever term so chosen. They are with us today, and forgotten. I know of veterans who felt they did not get the promised healthcare. Medicare which came out in the 60’s also had an impact on those promised medical benefits. My father who served for 26 years in both the Army and Air Force reminded me of the contract and commitment that was not honored. He never understood nor accepted the idea of paying for his medications, however small. These veterans were told at times they could not use the medical facilities because of medicare. How quickly they were forgotten, and they were the Greatest Generation.
Korea, The Forgotten War, A Police Action, again when the fighting was done, the Forgotten Patriots seemed to be wished away, unseen, unheard, and left to their own devices. Again, the medical was as good as expected, but you see thousands fell through the cracks of the military medical boards and the VA, especially those of head trauma, referred to as shell shock, combat fatigue, cracking up, or whatever term so chosen. The Korean veteran may be the only one who truly understands the cost and impact of a war without end. For those of you who do not know, the war has never ended, we signed an armistice. I cannot make light of this subject for my father was trapped in Pusan. The Korean War veterans are with us today, and generally forgotten, again they are America’s Forgotten Patriots.
Vietnam, the Ten Thousand Day War, the War against Communism, the Undeclared War, or better still the Vietnam Conflict. Vietnam adds to the legacy of Forgotten Patriots. The casualties were enormous, the price so steep we lost a generation. We lost a generation through political intrigue, congressional ineptitude, poor leadership, and a diminishing morale. The financial rewards and the educational possibilities were in a small way a motivator for some. But you see, it wasn’t as simple and clean as politicians would like to make it. The physical and mental stresses were not understood nor an acceptable failing, or crisis for a soldier, airman, marine, or sailor. One just didn’t give in. Maybe that is why we had a prison in Long Bien called LBJ, Long Bien Jail. I cannot speak to the Veterans of WWII or Korea about harassment and or other indignities to fellow soldiers. But, I can from a Vietnam veterans position. Amongst the blood, sweat, tears, and the enemy there was this insidious racial, ethnic, and sometimes religious harassment that was taking place. There was a breakdown in discipline and order among the men as well as the civilians who sexually harassed . The combat soldier is a rare breed and many suffered greatly and did not get the medical treatment necessary for the return to civilian life. Each and every service member from the era has his own thoughts, memories, dreams and nightmares.
When the veteran came home it was to a bitter and divided country, lacking in leadership, moral courage, and dignity. Our veterans did receive better healthcare than previously in history, but the casualties and the pain and suffering didn’t seem to abate. The Forgotten Patriots were those in most cases suffering from the mental images that would not or will not go away. The destruction of such a large segment of the population is not a subject for dinner conversation. These veterans are on our streets, homeless, in prison, in hospitals and in some cases just lost. The American people, the military and the VA let too many of the Forgotten Patriots fall through the cracks.
In September 2001 an act of terrorism destroyed a fabric of this nation and millions of young men and women made the sacrifice. We are now involved in Terrorism, Al Qaeda, Taliban, and other pursuits. The casualties may be low compared to past wars, but the mentality is still with us, a soldier is not or should not show stress, or weakness. It appears that we have learned a lot about the human body and yet the mind alludes us. Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome (PTSD) is another name for shell shock, battle fatigue, and is also called severe brain injury. The amount of PTSD seems to me to be greater today than before and that is because of the media coverage. I am aware that the military has acknowledge that there is a major problem and they have attempted to treat the soldier on the field or in-country hoping to salvage the soldier. Has it worked well? I cannot speak to that , more has to be done to help treat and medicate the soldiers suffering from such a terrible condition. When the Army has its highest amount of suicides in its history, when veterans commit crimes for no known reason, and families are torn asunder then maybe not enough is being done. The Military Medical Boards and the Veterans Administration must get the diagnosis right. With the resources available to this nation it appears that congress and the president have Forgotten our Patriots. To consider cutting, suspending or limiting access to any or all medical treatment is unpatriotic.
The Gulf War, the War in Iraq and the war in Afghanistan have been far more costly than most would know. Our volunteer force is limited in size, but large in scope. The veterans of today’s military have carried their obligation, their service and their sacrifice with great courage and fidelity. A sharing of the burden for this great nation is not too much to ask. I have always felt that all young men and women should serve our country in some form. We the American people have an obligation to America’s Patriots, and a special commitment to those who are and can be called America’s Forgotten Patriots.
At the beginning the question was “Why has America Forgotten her Patriots” in short it is because we collectively have a short attention span . We don’t like to be reminded of the costs, sacrifices, and burden war brings us and time is both a healer and an eraser of memory. Far too many of our citizens lack the knowledge of what it takes to understand and participate in civics and government, which makes it difficult for them grasp the importance of the military, its costs, and their obligations to America’s Patriots. Today, there is a new element it is the All Voluntary Military . An all volunteer military has desensitized far too many of our citizens to the burden of war. It eliminates the potential of broadening our ability to educate the citizenry in all aspects of the American society from culture to business from economic class to economic class. Our Patriots are America’s Patriots and they can and should come from all walks of life.
The related sites and articles are provided for those who want to learn more.
- Utah’s forgotten veterans receive military funeral (seattletimes.nwsource.com)
- Forgotten People? (socyberty.com)
- Collateral damage: War veterans struggle to fit back into society (colonel6.com)
- Cherokee Nation Honors Veterans During Their National Holiday Celebration (indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com)