Now that the Veterans Day festivities are over, may I ask you to pause and consider what I’m about to tell you? Though Veterans Day is a nice gesture and is truly earned, it is but one small token in a sea of unmet veteran needs. There are many terribly ignored veterans’ needs for which our lawmakers in Washington D.C. have failed to help.
Only within the last several years has the Veterans Administration acknowledge that there is a strange series of unexplainable diseases and symptoms for which possibly hundreds of thousands of veterans, who served on the ground in the Middle East, have been affected. “How many”, you say? Yes, by their own commissioned studies, the military now acknowledges that one-fourth of the soldiers on the ground during the 1991 Gulf War suffer diseases ranging from Fibromyalgia to double the chance of getting Lou Gerrigs Disease.
Veterans Day is not only a day to honor the sacrifices and services of patriots who have served in the military (less than 1% of Americans); it is also a time when some civilians feel patriotic about recognizing the troops. But, what about the needs and often unexplainable health problems of our veterans? Is it okay to say “we love you” but not compensate these forgotten disabled men and women? Can a civilian truly feel pride when those they applaud go without the finances and medical care needed to maintain a decent life?
The press has lain off this subject. It may have been mentioned somewhere buried in the middle of a paper or news broadcast, but the press has failed to stand on the necks of our lawmakers to fix this wrong. How can I say such a thing? I personally have asked our local paper and TV news stations to start covering this.
This shouldn’t be so. We should be ashamed that we don’t meet the needs of our soldiers that acquired diseases from their war service (or any type of military service for that matter). We gulf war vets have diseases such as Fibromyalgia, unexplainable arthritis pain throughout our bodies, unexplainable neurological pain, memory loss, digestive diseases, and on and on. We were exposed to breathing in air that was so thick with oil smoke that you could stare at the sun without blinking. Our own exploding shells are hardened with depleted uranium. There are bacteria that are part of the desert. There are differing reports that chemical warfare may have been used. And, we were asked to take a NON-FDA approved pill to help us deal with nerve gas attacks.
What should YOU do? Before you wave a flag at a parade, type out a letter or email to both your senators and your congressman with a stern objection. Fund the V.A. so we veterans don’t have to wait years and years and years to have our medical conditions boarded just to have our PRESUMPTIVE diseases denied the first round and (maybe) passed the second round during lengthy appeals. Since we do not understand the pathology of some of these symptoms, the Veterans Administration is directed to approve us for V.A. assistance since the disease is presumptive in gulf war vets. The science says approximately one fourth of veterans in the war zone have these diseases (Research Advisory Committee on Gulf War Veterans’ Illnesses, pub. November 2008). However, the V.A. doesn’t follow this direction. They seem to worry more about saving money or wearing us down so we quit.
Call and Write. It is a national disgrace that many of our soldiers cannot work due to SEVERE chronic pain and we don’t do anything to help. This causes severe depression. And, the number one killer of soldiers is suicide (some estimates are 28 per month on average). My personal experience is it all goes back to the feeling “Americans promised they would take care of us in exchange for voluntary service. Where is their pride now?”
Looking for lawmakers in Washington, D.C.? Find them here: www.senate.gov and www.house.gov The President and First Lady can be found through www.whitehouse.gov. And, don’t forget to call your news outlets. If you cannot do this for the least of these soldiers, then the patriotism is hollow. Speaking for me personally, the parades have little meaning. I’m pretty sure many other damaged soldiers feel the same.
James retired from 11 years in 5th Special Forces. During the Gulf War, James and his team were placed on the border of Kuwait and Saudi Arabia to gather intelligence from the Iraqi buildup. Due to Gulf War Illness symptoms, James doesn’t work but looks for chances to network with other Gulf War vets who can’t get through the V.A. system.