Men Still Die For their Country

Disabled Vets
Disabled Vets

Men Still Die

As the rest of the nation prepares to enter into the 2015 Holiday Season, complete with parties, shopping, and food, Food, FOOD, one man has a different view of Thanksgiving and the meaning of the holidays. In March of 2012, his kidney was removed--full of cancer. This cost him a years delay in getting on the list for a liver transplant while Dr.'s waited to see if the cancer came back. Finally, he was placed on the list. Then, in February of 2014, he was diagnosed with Primary Liver Cancer. He wasn't expected to live past the 2014 holidays, but he's still hanging on.

The transplant is due to end-stage liver disease. No, it's not from heavy drinking. This man is a disabled veteran and the liver damage was caused by an Asian virus he contracted in the early 1970's while in the uniform of the United States Army. It was an enlistment bonus the recruiter failed to mention in his pitch to the then much younger man. But now, it's the gift that keeps on giving.

Every day, somewhere in the United States, another veteran gives his life for his country. The sad fact: nobody knows and few really care. They don’t know because these veterans aren’t dying in a combat zone. No IED blew up and killed them. No suicide bomber flipped his switch. CNN news didn't lead with it at 6:00 o'clock. They died without fanfare, without notice, without the media publicity, often with only the immediate family in attendance.

The reason? These men and women are casualties from another war, another time. Some remember World War II, some Korea. Many are survivors from Viet-Nam. Some are former prisoners of war. A large number have one or more Purple Heart. They die from Agent Orange, blood diseases that have destroyed their organs like our veteran waiting for surgery. Complications from the vicious experience of POW camps take many. A close friend of mine died six years ago due to a type of Parkinson’s brought on from his incarceration in a Vietnamese POW camp.

Has Washington fixed the problems with the Veterans Administration?

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Remember the Fallen
Remember the Fallen

The Forgotten Veteran

These are deaths that should be as poignant to us as one who dies in combat; because these unnoticed men and women are still dying for their country. They are just doing it in a different manner and a later time, but understand, these are service related conditions. These veterans should be afforded the same honor, the same recognition that is bestowed on those who died in combat. Why? Because these conditions have caused them to continue to fight that war as if it was still going on! They have never left that war. It has never truly been over for them until the day God gives them their discharge from this life.

Sadly, it’s not that way. These veterans are not honored; they are forgotten. They are not recognized for their continued valor, they are ridiculed and maligned. And worse, the country they willingly served and are dying for heaps broken promises on these brave men and women. The health care they were promised is constantly in jeopardy. President Obama even suggested that not paying for their own care was unpatriotic! How much more patriotic can one get than giving up their very life!

Many older veterans have no income beside the VA Disability they receive each month. The paltry disability compensations are difficult to live on as it is, but if a disabled veteran makes an extra dime much of this pension is swiftly taken away. The veteran is the last one to be considered for pricy medical procedures that might help them. It’s too expensive to waste on someone giving his or her life for their country! No “cost of living” increase is given to these veterans when there is a freeze on benefits and federal wages. Guess who is exempt from this freeze? Congress, of course. They’ll deny the pitifully small increase to veterans and social security recipients to insure there is enough for themselves.

Walking Wounded
Walking Wounded

...and It Gets Worse

Now we've seen the scandal break about long waits for care, treatments not received. There is a shortage of Doctors with the increase of case load due to the ongoing wars in the Middle East. A Senate report from the office of Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) from June, 2014 suggests that more than 1,000 veterans may have lost their lives over the past decade just because of delays in receiving care. And now, a year late, the Washington Post reports that the number of veterans waiting for care has risen 50%.

Organizations such as the Wounded Warrior Project pick up some of the slack for those with service connected injuries after September 11, 2001, and this is an excellent effort, supported by fine people. But, who picks up the tab for those leftover vets from Korea, Viet Nam, Central America, Serbia...? These older vets are often pushed to the side while the influx of vets from the 21st century are seen first. The reason was stated in an earlier paragraph...they're too old to be a real contribution to society anymore.

Yet, Congress continues to raise the retirement age, making a longer wait for Social Security to kick in. And will there even be any Social Security left by that time for many of these vets? So, they are forced to work, if they can, to make ends meet. For far too many, the only position they can hold up to physically is a Greeter at Wal-Mart.

This is a sad state of affairs, but one that is going on right now in this country, and one Washington seeks to sweep under the table like the crumbs from a big meal. Men and women are still giving theirs lives for their country, but nobody notices…nobody cares… Oh, and the veteran portrayed at the beginning of this article...that would be me.

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