In his State of the Union address, President Bush is expected to give yet another strong warning to Iraq, while Axis of Evil member North Korea continued threatening the objects of its dissatisfaction as well. But on Feb. 12, an army of scarred and ornery warriors will once again be walking the walk instead of talking the talk, invading this nation’s capital for real. And they won’t be Saddam’s thugs or Kim’s crazies – but true-grit American heroes protesting the raw deal they’ve gotten from dishonest politicians with short and shifty memories.
Barely a month before Bush’s Missiles of March will more than likely thump Iraq, thousands of World War II and Korean War vets – all more than 70 years of age – will travel by train, bus, plane, car, horseback, wheelchair and shoe leather to stand tall together in front of the Supreme Court while they tell the nation how the capital gang has hung them out to die on promised lifetime health benefits for retired vets.
Their skipper – leading the class-action lawsuit – is Medal of Honor recipient turned Florida lawyer Col. George Day, now flying with a briefcase full of hard facts instead of the jet fighter he piloted over Vietnam. Although the feisty three-war vet has been battling this case for years, only now, after much shameful government double talk, backpedaling and welshing, is the case finally going before the highest court of our land.
Their story is as old as war and peace: how promises were conveniently forgotten or baldly broken; how the Justice Department has cynically used stonewalling and other slippery delaying tactics, knowing full well that these senior citizens are dying daily – which statistics show will save the feds big bucks if and when the liars lose.
Bush clearly stated during his campaign for the presidency and again after his boots hit the Oval Office that the nation must keep faith with our vets and that vows made by our government must be honored. But despite all the polished political words, the promised medical support is still AWOL.
Navy vet Jerry Bell says: “This is our last chance to show how we feel about being betrayed. When warriors are treated in such a shameful manner, both the fabric of our country and its military institution are in question.”
Billboards around Washington are delivering that same message with the hard thud of a 155 mm barrage: “WWII/KOREA RETIREES FIGHT TO RECOVER STOLEN MEDICAL CARE. ‘COURT SAYS THEFT IS OK.’ WHO IS RIGHT, WARRIORS OR GOVT?”
Despite George Washington’s wise warning, “The willingness with which our young people are likely to serve in any war, no matter how justified, shall be directly proportional to how they perceive the veterans of earlier wars were treated and appreciated by their nation,” American vets from our Civil War to Desert Storm have been consistently treated like orphans.
Most recently, more than 161,000 Desert Storm vets have been disabled, and almost 10,000 have died from Gulf War Illness. During the near-decade they spent pleading for help, in pain and dying, their ingrate government kept insisting that their wounds – now proven to be caused by U.S.-destroyed Iraqi chemical munitions and an assortment of other killer cocktails such as oil-fire fumes, untested inoculations and local bugs that they weren’t protected against – were “all in their heads.”
Now Bush and his war hawks – who almost to a man dodged service in the Vietnam War, just like the majority of our members of Congress – are again sending warriors to employ the military solution in the Gulf at even greater risk, since the Pentagon has just admitted the bio/chem suits our attacking troops will wear are good only for bunker duty. There’s already a buzz of putting plans in place for bulldozers to mass-bury our sons and daughters who fall from germs. Not that this scenario would trouble the dedicated folks in Veterans Affairs. You know, no messy claims or protesters to worry about down the track.
Consider the pattern of betrayal: We rebuild Afghanistan but don’t take care of our heroes, or spend the bucks on the right bio/chem suits to protect our troops.
It seems that “Lest We Forget” is no longer the American way. Now it’s “Use ’em, abuse ’em and lose ’em.”