It speaks volumes about a nation’s population that they need a special federal holiday to remember and honor the sacrifice of the men and women of the armed services who died while serving their country. Although it is true that not every family in America has lost a loved-one to war, every American has benefitted, in one form or another, from those who gave their lives in service to this country throughout its history. As Americans celebrate another Memorial Day, while they attend parades, have picnics, and remember America’s fallen soldiers, they should keep in mind that over the past 50 or so years this country fought wars of choice over ideology and resources and not because of an existential threat to the United States.
War should be any nation’s last resort to resolve a conflict regardless the circumstances, and yet for Republicans and their conservative supporters, there is never a good reason not to send more Americans to die as if this nation needs more fallen soldiers to memorialize at the start of summer. In fact, despite Americans still serving in Iraq and fighting in Afghanistan, and a war-weary public ready for a rare period without war, Republicans have clamored for more wars with no regard for the men and women whose job it is to put their lives on the line for their country. During the Bush administration, any criticism of the senseless loss of life and resources expended in Iraq and Afghanistan brought swift accusations that advocating for peace was not supporting the troops. However, Republicans have never supported the troops; not while they were in Iraq and Afghanistan and certainly not after they returned home.
The recent revelation that severely underfunded Veterans’ Administration hospitals were responsible for Veterans dying waiting for care is an abomination. That is not supporting the troops; it is using and discarding them after they served their purpose of enriching the military industrial complex. The simple fact that VA hospitals were left using creative scheduling schemes because they were burdened with patients should be all the proof any American needs to comprehend that Republicans have never cared about, or supported, the troops after their service was complete. It is important to remember that while Republicans refused to fund new hospitals, Veterans’ jobs bills, or their pensions due to “budgetary constraints,” they always find more than enough funds for tax cuts for the rich, new military hardware the Pentagon does not want or need, or funding to start more wars whether it was in Syria, Libya, Iran, and recently in Russia.
If Republicans supported the troops and appreciated the sacrifice of those who made it home alive, then they would not propose privatizing the Veterans Administration, cut Veterans’ pensions, obstruct Veterans’ jobs bills, reject Medicaid expansion, cut active-duty soldiers’ food stamps, or block new construction for desperately-needed VA hospitals. There has been a call for the Secretary of Veterans’ Affairs, Retired General Shinseki, to resign or be fired after reports surfaced Veterans died waiting for treatment at VA hospitals, but if Republicans adequately funded the Veterans’ Administration there would be no so-called scandal. The only scandal remotely related to the unnecessary Veterans’ deaths is that there are insufficient hospitals and medical facilities as a direct result of Republicans underfunding the VA.
Republicans argue, like they did when they withheld increased security funding for diplomatic missions that led to the deaths of four Americans in Benghazi, that they have to prioritize where funding goes, but that is never the case when they subsidize the oil industry, corporate agriculture, pass budgets with new tax cuts for the wealthy, or call for new American military intervention at the drop of a hat. The warmongers in Congress, and there are many more than those appearing on news programs condemning the President for not rushing to war, are beholden to the very substantial military-industrial complex and its profits and have barely-concealed contempt for the men and women whose lives are on the line. Their contempt is publicly manifest when they oppose funding for Veterans whether it is for jobs, new medical facilities, or cut Veterans’ pensions to protect tax breaks for the rich and corporations.
Memorial Day is to honor the men and women who did not make it home from war, but no American should forget the hundreds-of-thousands of survivors who, but for luck or circumstances, made it home but are forever changed whether it is living with the horrors of war, coping with life-changing devastating injuries, or face death again in long waiting lists at Veterans’ hospitals. Americans should honor and acknowledge every service member whether they made the ultimate sacrifice or are active duty, retired, homeless, unemployed, coping with debilitating injuries seen or unseen, or are living prosperous lives. The people should also exert overwhelming pressure on any member of Congress who opposes legislation to fund building enough Veterans’ hospitals to accommodate any eventuality as well as those whose first response to any turmoil in foreign nations is American military intervention and more fallen heroes.
If America never goes to war again, the people have enough fallen and living service members to memorialize and honor for their sacrifice, so if Republicans are always pushing for more wars just to give the people more fallen heroes to honor on Memorial Day, they are more malevolent than anyone could imagine. War should always be the remedy of last resort for any nation if for no other reason than supporting the troops by not putting them in harms’ way. Republicans readily put the men and women of the military in harms way whether it was sending them to fight and die in their wars of choice, or forcing them to wait for medical care at underfunded Veterans’ hospitals. The real travesty is that it is not because Republicans want a perpetual line of fallen soldiers, airmen, and sailors to remember on Memorial Day, but because they love war as much as they hate the Americans tasked to fight them; especially those that make it home alive.
Audio engineer and instructor for SAE. Writes op/ed commentary supporting Secular Humanist causes, and exposing suppression of women, the poor, and minorities. An advocate for freedom of religion and particularly, freedom of NO religion.
Born in the South, raised in the Mid-West and California for a well-rounded view of America; it doesn’t look good.
Former minister, lifelong musician, Mahayana Zen-Buddhist.