The Obama administration, from the President and First Lady to the Vice President and his wife, is one hundred percent behind our troops in compassionate initiatives and honorable policy that match their words. This is worth mentioning because it’s highly unusual.
If you haven’t been aware of the extraordinary work that Dr. Jill Biden and First Lady Michelle Obama have done through their “Joining Forces” organization, maybe you heard Joe Biden’s speech this weekend; the one that moved people to tears with its raw emotion on the issue of loss.
Vice President Joe Biden and Dr. Jill Biden (who has also long been a strong supporter and advocate for military families) addressed the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS) National Military Survivor Seminar in Arlington, Virginia, on May 25, 2012. Watch Joe speaking here:
The Vice President, whose son Beau Biden was deployed to Iraq and thankfully returned safely, told the audience of his own experience with loss. Sharing the story of the deaths of his wife and daughter, Biden described the pain as a “black hole you feel in your chest, like you’re being sucked back into it.”
Biden continued, “It was the first time in my career, my life, I realized someone could go out and I probably shouldn’t say this with the press here, but no, but it’s more important. You’re more important. For the first time in my life I understood how someone could consciously decide to commit suicide. Not because they were deranged, not because they were nuts; because they’d been to the top of the mountain and they just knew in their heart they’d never get there again, that it was never going to be that way ever again. That’s how an awful lot of you feel.”
Joe left the audience who knew all too well the feelings he was describing with this, “There will come a day, I promise you, and your parents as well, when the thought of your son or daughter or your husband or wife brings a smile to your lips before it brings a tear to your eye. It will happen. My prayer for you is that day will come sooner or later. But the only thing I have more experience than you in is this: I’m telling you it will come.”
The Vice President’s palpable empathy with our military families who have lost a loved one matters. It matters that the folks we elect understand what they are asking us to do, and that they too have been willing to make the same sacrifices they ask of our troops. Draft-dodger Mitt Romney, on the other hand, claimed that his sons are serving their country by helping him get elected.
Romney “defended his five sons’ decision not to enlist in the military, saying they’re showing their support for the country by ‘helping me get elected.'” This is the same Romney who is pushing vouchers for veterans healthcare.
Maybe you’ve heard the President speak about his jobs bill – the one that did not get a single GOP vote, causing the President to break it down into smaller parts and fight for each one separately. One part of the President’s jobs bills was set aside specifically to encourage businesses to hire our returning troops. Republicans had already voted against a similar bill for the troops, but this time Republican Jim DeMint was the lone no vote, claiming that tax cuts wouldn’t prompt businesses to hire people (thereby ironically killing the entire Republican argument for cutting taxes for corporations).
At one point, he (DeMint) said, “We’re pandering to different political groups with programs that have proven to be ineffective.”
In other words, thanks for your service but we choose to give tax cuts to those who pay us the most in hard campaign cash. Perhaps someone can explain to DeMint that encouraging businesses to hire our veterans is like wearing a flag pin only in policy.
In sharp contrast to the Republican Party’s image as the party that supports the troops, in reality — when it comes to policy — Republicans have abandoned the troops. “Accordingly, lawmakers offered a wide range of bills to assist recent veterans—and Republicans opposed nearly all of them”:
Republicans passed a budget bill that slashed $75 million that would have funded housing vouchers for homeless veterans…
In June 2009, a vast majority of Republicans voted against providing extra money to active duty members of the military subject to “stop-loss” orders…
At the height of the economic crisis, there was a bill in Congress that would have given a tax credit to businesses that hired unemployed veterans, as well as provide a $250 economic relief payment for any disabled veterans who would no doubt have an even harder time finding work amidst a wide recession. Republicans uniformly opposed the bill.
Iraq veteran and co-founder of Vote Vets Jon Solt wrote the following regarding this year’s Republican budget:
(W)ithout saying the word “veteran,” the budget tells us a lot about what they (Republicans) think about veterans. The budget calls for across the board spending freezes and cuts. If enacted, the Ryan GOP budget would cut $11 billion from veterans spending, or 13 percent from what President Obama proposes in his own plan.
Ironically, Republicans seized on those cuts proposed by President Obama even though their own budget make much larger cuts.
Or maybe you’ve heard the President speak with measured force about the reasons why we try other measures, like sanctions, before military action, and you thought to yourself: Huh. That’s an idea.
But until you put all of these things together, you don’t have the full picture of the genuine weight of support the Obama administration has given our troops. Yes, it takes more than a bumper sticker and a flag pin.
Reminding us that Memorial Day is about much more than a long weekend and barbeques, the President spoke of the importance of honoring our troops’ service by supporting our veterans and their families.
President Obama on our veterans:
We have to serve them and their families as well as they have served us: By making sure that they get the healthcare and benefits they need; by caring for our wounded warriors and supporting our military families; and by giving veterans the chance to go to college, find a good job, and enjoy the freedom that they risked everything to protect.
Our men and women in uniform took an oath to defend our country at all costs, and today, as members of the finest military the world has ever known, they uphold that oath with dignity and courage. As President, I have no higher honor than serving as their Commander-in-Chief. But with that honor comes a solemn responsibility – one that gets driven home every time I sign a condolence letter, or meet a family member whose life has been turned upside down.
No words can ever bring back a loved one who has been lost. No ceremony can do justice to their memory. No honor will ever fill their absence.
But on Memorial Day, we come together as Americans to let these families and veterans know that they are not alone. We give thanks for those who sacrificed everything so that we could be free. And we commit ourselves to upholding the ideals for which so many patriots have fought and died.
Memorial Day is a time to honor those who have made the ultimate sacrifice, and it is also the time to ask ourselves what we can be doing for our military families, whether it’s offering to mow the lawn, supporting a reuniting couple after a long deployment, or lending an open ear to a grieving family. Even those warriors who return home often face emotional, financial and physical challenges upon returning to civilian life, and they can use your support.
Memorial Day is, in addition, a time to reflect that a nation who sends its youth to war needs to take care of the troops while they’re deployed as well as making good on the recruiting promises; good healthcare and opportunities for jobs, and assistance with retrofitting homes to assist with injuries sustained while fighting.
When we say thank you for your service, we need to follow that up with action.
You can show support by going to Joining Forces, the First Lady and Dr. Jill Biden’s joint initiative. You can find ways to help in your community, pledge service in honor of our warriors or just send a message of thanks to our troops.
Ms. Jones is the editor-in-chief of PoliticusUSA.
Sarah hosts Politicus News and co-hosts Politicus Radio. Her analysis has been featured on several national radio, television news programs and talk shows, and print outlets including Stateside with David Shuster, as well as The Washington Post, The Atlantic Wire, CNN, MSNBC, The Week, The Hollywood Reporter, and more.
Sarah has won two Telly Awards and is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists.