Veterans...we're sorry for how our country treated you
It’s time to stop saying thank you, and start saying sorry.
Today is Veterans Day, a day when Americans give thanks for the service of the men and women of our armed forces, who have bravely served our country, and in many cases, made the ultimate sacrifice. Veterans Day aside, our society teaches us to thank veterans for their service, but in reality, particularly for Republicans, that thanks is a big slap in the face.
We’re flooded with television ads and YouTube videos thanking veterans for their service. It’s become an obligatory thing to say: "Thank you for your service." Instead, we should be saying we're sorry to the nearly 23 million surviving veterans in America, and we're sorry to those who are no longer with us.
We should be saying we're sorry to them for destroying their lives, and for forgetting about them when they come home from the battlefields. But the apologies don’t stop there.
We should be saying sorry to the millions of veterans who fought in unjust wars that our lawmakers lied us into, and sorry to the families who lost their loved ones in those violent, deadly and completely unnecessary wars. And, we should be saying sorry for having Republican lawmakers in Washington who have repeatedly shot down bills and filibustered legislation meant to help America’s veterans.
From the day President Obama was first sworn into office to May of 2012, Republicans have blocked no fewer than 7 major pieces of legislation that would have helped veterans. They blocked the Wounded Veteran Job Security Act, which would have provided job security for veterans who are receiving medical treatment for injuries suffered. They blocked the Veterans Retraining Act, which would have provided assistance to help unemployed veterans with their expenses while getting job training and looking for a job. And Republicans also blocked the Homeless Veterans Reintegration Program Reauthorization, which would have reauthorized programs to support homeless veterans, and would have assisted them with job training, counseling, and placement services through the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Meanwhile, earlier this year, Republicans in the Senate blocked yet another bill that would have expanded healthcare and education programs for veterans. Just months later, they blocked a $21 billion plan to build new VA clinics, because they said it was "too expensive." And last year, Republicans blocked legislation that would have expanded mental health screening for veterans.
Not surprisingly, Republicans have also refused to support legislation aimed at curbing homelessness in America, something that, according to the Department of Housing and Urban Development, at least 49,333 veterans experience on any given night.
Aside from the apologies we need to make to veterans for the actions of Republicans in Washington, we also need to say "sorry" for Bush and Cheney exposing American troops in Iraq to chemical weapons, and then lying about it and not giving them the proper medical treatment.
Finally, we need to say sorry for George W. Bush not allowing pictures to be taken of soldiers’ homecomings from the Iraq War, and for having so little respect for the men and women he sent off to die in war.
Lost in all the hubbub of Veterans Day is the fact that our country really does a terrible job at taking care of the men and women who have risked their lives to save others. And, to make matters worse, We the People have become desensitized to the struggles our veterans face. Instead, we say thank you, and feel like we’ve done our part and fulfilled our obligation.
In her famous Mother’s Day proclamation, Julia Ward Howe, who wrote The Battle Hymn of the Republic, said that:
“From the bosom of a devastated Earth a voice goes up with Our own.
It says: "Disarm! Disarm!
The sword of murder is not the balance of justice.
Blood does not wipe out dishonor, Nor violence indicate possession.”
On the battlefields, our veterans have gone to hell and back. On the home-front, they’re still struggling to survive. We need to recognize those struggles, apologize for putting our soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines into them, and most importantly, fight against the ongoing Republican efforts to screw our veterans.