BY KAREN WEBB
My wake up call this morning was my state senator, Steve Russell calling a report for Department of Homeland Security that veterans are the most likely to be right-wing extremists or terrorists was a slap in the face and slug in the gut. Sen. Russell is a veteran and I don’t know anyone who supports our veterans more than I do.
Politicians start wars and soldiers fight them. Over 56,000 of my generation have their names on a big black memorial in D.C. I didn’t believe in that war, either, but I have been on the side of vets all the way, and the thing denied them most is adequate mental health care when they get home and that is still happening today.
When they came back they were told that their problems didn’t exist because not all veterans have problems. Their problems could not possibly have to do with the war and Agent Orange was just not a problem. They were denied proper mental health care by the same politicians who declared the war and sent them to fight it.
Let me tell you where you don’t want to go, Sen. Russell, because you won’t like the truth. You do not want to go to a Klan meeting or a meeting of any of the militias and ask all the veterans to raise their hands. Some veterans have real mental issues and some are really ticked off at the treatment they get when they come home.
How many African-Americans fought and died in World War II? How many African-Americans were forced to do all the grunt work so the white guys could become the heroes? How many African-Americans were used as test subjects for vaccines or to see how social diseases affect the brain without telling them what they were for? How many came home to find out that they couldn’t work because of their race or they couldn’t have a nice house in a nice neighborhood, even if they were veterans? Why was it that it took decades before the Tuskegee Airmen were given the decorations they deserved?
Steve, the exact same thing is happening today and the Defense Department and the Bush Administration came up with some even more creative abuse. Not many Guard members were in Vietnam, but that isn’t true in this war and when they first started coming home they found that their health care and benefits were not the same even though the bullets hitting them were still deadly. They were even told to pay for their own food while they were in the hospital.
Today if they come back mentally damaged they are told it was an existing injury. Some are told they must give back their signing bonuses. Back in my day, they were drafted because they could not afford to stay in college. Most of the idiots on TV and radio yelling and screaming did not spend one day in uniform.
There are a lot of suicides and there have been a lot of guys and girls come back to do some really awful things. I remember the civil rights era well and I would bet my last nickel that at least 90% of Klan members and those screaming in Little Rock and elsewhere that they didn’t fight a war so blacks could have their jobs, attend their schools or marry their women.
Today I have been around counter-protestors with signs calling the rest of us some really bad stuff because they didn’t fight a war so I could have free speech unless I said what they liked. I have also stood beside a lot of veterans on my side of the protest. I have watched veterans on both sides of issues nearly come to blows and threaten all kinds of stuff because they didn’t agree on what they had fought for. A Marine wouldn’t fight for gay rights. A good Marine couldn’t be a Democrat. My guess is that many had no idea or were misled on what they were fighting for. Or maybe they just came back and found out how much money was made per life expended.
I am told there are a lot of guys and girls coming back to no jobs and still not sufficient health care. I know there are thousands if not millions of homeless Vietnam vets still waiting for mental health care. There are a lot of families suffering today because people are saying things like, “because Steve Russell came back from war undamaged mentally that it isn’t possible that you are damaged so you don’t get the help you need because you were just mentally weak to begin with.”
Steve, to deny that war can create terrorists or violent activists on both sides is to deny reality.
Our soldiers are not just pawns for our Congress and government to use in some crazy international version of reality RISK. I always feel sick while watching videos from things like The Young Republicans where they say, like Newt Gingrich said, they support the war and the troops, but fighting in it is just not something they have time for.
DHS did not say that every soldier will come back and join a militia; they said they could and as long as we ignore the problems they have when they come back and deny them mental health care, we are asking for it.
Charles Whitman, Tim McVeigh and Patrick Sherrill are just some of the better-known military veterans who needed mental health care while in and after they got out. Whitman and Sherrill didn’t even go to war, but they were veterans. I have been told it is my fault because I do not support every military adventure every politician or captain of the giant military complex that President Eisenhower warned about wants to declare.
You do not use volunteers to depose leaders that the U.S.A. helped put in power, like Saddam Hussein. You send the CIA or special services to do that. The U.S.A. has put too many friendly dictators in power and then disposed of them when they were no longer cooperative or useful than I can remember. They just had to say they were not Communist.
– Karen Webb lives in Moore, OK and is a regular contributor to The Oklahoma Observer