Memorial Day 2008: True Respect

On a bipartisan vote of 75-22, the US Senate last week passed the GI Bill for the 21st Century.

John McCain, who is campaigning in Albuquerque this Memorial Day, has joined President Bush in opposition to the new GI Bill. Bush has threatened to veto it when it arrives at his desk.

In view of the huge gulf between the Bush-McCain “Support our Troops” rhetoric and the reality of their actions, here are three items worth pondering on this Memorial Day 2008.

The first is the cover story of the June issue of Technology Review (not on-line). From Brain Trauma in Iraq by Emily Singer:

The U.S. Department of Defense reports that approximately 30 percent of those evacuated from the battlefield to Walter Reed Army Medical Center have traumatic brain injury (TBI). The problem is probably worse than that: The DOD figure does not include brain injuries in soldiers whose wounds were not severe enough to require evacuation or whose ingjuries were not identified until after they completed their tours.

Post-deployment surveys suggest that 10 to 20 percent of all deployed troops have experienced concussions. .. Surveys of troops to be redeployed in Iraq suggest that 20 to 40 percent still had symptoms of past concussions…

Now this from the book, A Time to Fight – Reclaiming a Fair and Just America, by Senator James Webb (D-VA), sponsor of the new GI Bill:

These patronizing litanies from politicians who shield themselves from accountability by claiming that criticism of the Bush Administration’s policies undermines the troops is blatant political avoidance and not true respect. Most of our military men and women know this…

A fundamental respect also means that after several years of war in Iraq and Afghanistan, those directing these efforts should be able to develop sensible operational policies built on rotational cycles that allow our troops enough time at home between deployments. And a true indicator of respect would be for those who repeatedly call our present-day military men and women “the new Greatest Generation” to support the same level of GI Bill benefits for those who have served since 9/11 as those given to our World War II veterans. We have seen none of this.

Here’s a fitting act of respect on this Memorial Day.  Visit the VoteVets.org website and sign the petition urging Senator McCain to change his mind and support the 21st Century GI Bill (petition).

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