SOME PARENTS OF VETERANS COMING HOME FROM IRAQ AND AFGHANISTAN ARE HAVING TO GIVE UP RETIREMENT TO TAKE CARE OF THEIR BRAVE OFFSPRING
By Kevin Stoda
As a lifelong progressive for peace (with great leanings towards non-violent action rather than war to solve conflict issues), I have been concerned for decades as to how one-sided or biased both the American family and its educational communities—not to mention the media—have been in brazenly glorifying America’s military power platforms for pressurizing less blessed nations around the globe.
My concerned has turned to dismay at times, especially, as I received a copy of the AARP’s article entitled: “When Wounded Vets Come Home”. http://www.aarpmagazine.org/family/when_wounded_vets_come_home.html?NLC-WBLTR-CTRL=F1-52308
DESIRE FOR ALTERNATIVE REARING OF AMERICANS
I have shared elsewhere how in the months leading to the Coalition Gulf War with Iraq in 1991, I was astounded that my own high school students were being recruited in the hallways and cafeteria of that Kansas high school (where I taught 1990-1991) to join ROTC as well as the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marines.
Meanwhile, other students’ parents, who had been serving in the Kansas National Guard (which was headquartered across the street from that same high school), had already been mobilized themselves and sent to Saudi Arabia by October 1990.
I had been raised America during the Vietnam era, and I knew how heavy the toll that that particular war had on culture, community, economy, and family’s. Meanwhile other youth I grew up were still suffering with parents untreated from war-related trauma from the military police action in the Koreas in the early 1950s.
Admittedly, in the days just after President Jimmy Carter and his administration activated mandatory selective service enrollment for males, I personally spent my own high school senior year (1980) considering whether I could or should join the military and still be able to carry out (or live out) my democratic ideals and make sure that no My Lai massacres ever occurred again in my lifetime.
Note: Carter’s call to have selective service started up in the USA in January 1980 came only weeks after the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan in December 1979.
I decided to enroll in the selective service only under pressure from my family in January of 1981. However, I continued to ponder and rue my decision to enroll under family pressure for at least 2 months.
Finally, in March 1981, I wrote the Selective Service and asked that my name be taken off the selective service registration list.
By writing that letter, I knew that my desire to one day work in the U.S. state department or as an ambassador for peace working with my own government had become very limited by my having written such a letter. (In short, I have always wanted to serve my country and make it more of the Beacon on the Hill that history has at times has called it to be.)
The Selective Service agency did not answer my letter in the affirmative, but the staffer did write that they recognized receipt of the document. (They discouraged me from having others make a similar request.)
In short, although I have studied pacifism and non-violent action, including Gandhi’s Satyagraha techniques, I had myself separated myself from potential employment of these skills in a job with the U.S. military or with the U.S. state department because I felt any young person had to do what he could in 1981 to keep things like those that followed from happening:
-Series USA’s supposedly covert wars in Latin America in the 1980s
-Bombing deaths of over 200 marines in Lebanon in 1983
-Bad economic spending decisions on military hardware and budget over the past 3 decades
-Privatization of American military and Intelligence Agencies
-Invasion of Panama in 1989
-Coalition War with Iraq 1991
-Military quagmires in Somalia (1991-1993), in Afghanistan (2001 to Present), and in Iraq (2003 to Present)
-Bad management of Peace in Israel and the Middle East in general from the Reagan administration onwards since 1981
Alas, the state department and U.S. government agencies find me—and others like me—to be unemployable.
AARP ARTICLE ON VETS & STATUS OF FAMILIES 2008
In the aforementioned, piece from American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) on the burdens that veteran victims of war are importing home to their families, the author, Barry Yeoman, notes that it is “estimated 10,000 recent veterans of these conflicts now depend on their parents for their care. Working unheralded, these parents have quit jobs, shelved retirement plans, and relocated so they can be with their injured sons and daughters. Many have become warriors themselves, fighting to make sure this new wave of injured veterans gets the medical care and rehabilitation it needs.”
In the main human interest tale introducing the topic, a frustrating tale of a women name Cynthia and her son, it was noted that the main character’s son had entered the military only because in the two years prior, the economy in her family’s region of the country was doing so poorly, i.e. jobs were lacking.
I understand this. My own brother joined the navy during the Reagan recessions of the 1980s.
However, I wonder how many young unemployed or underemployed young Americans will come home injured now and in the immediate future?
In doings so, I also wonder how many of those entering national military service will feel that between (1) joblessness, (2) entering the U.S. military or (3) joining its private military contractor, signing the recruiter’s paperwork is a no-brainer?
MANY, MANY, MANY ARE COMING HOME NOW
The AARP article states, the “Theater Hospital in Balad, Iraq, has a 96 percent chance of survival. He or she can sometimes be stateside within 36 hours of the injury. As a result, there are just 6 deaths for every 100 injuries in Iraq and Afghanistan, compared with 28 deaths per 100 in Vietnam, and 38 in World War II, according to Linda Bilmes, a researcher at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government.”
This means that many more vets will be making it home alive—albeit in bad condition in the hot wars America has volunteered to send its sons and daughters into this decade—and for decades to come according to Republican leadership in the White House and in Sen. John McCain’s camp.
A lot of American and international press interest in recent weeks has been on the topic of how many mental and brain related injuries Americans will have suffer 2001 till all the troops come home and during the ongoing run-away Wars on Terror.
In April 2008, the RAND corporation put out a monograph on psychological problems cause by armed conflict. This recent document is entitled Invisible Wounds of War,” Rand Center for Military Health Policy Research, 2008. http://rand.org/pubs/monographs/MG720/
That RAND monograph declares, “Since October 2001, approximately 1.64 million U.S. troops have been deployed for Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom (OEF/OIF) in Afghanistan and Iraq. Early evidence suggests that the psychological toll of these deployments — many involving prolonged exposure to combat-related stress over multiple rotations — may be disproportionately high compared with the physical injuries of combat. In the face of mounting public concern over post-deployment health care issues confronting OEF/OIF veterans, several task forces, independent review groups, and a Presidential Commission have been convened to examine the care of the war wounded and make recommendations. Concerns have been most recently centered on two combat-related injuries in particular: post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury. With the increasing incidence of suicide and suicide attempts among returning veterans, concern about depression is also on the rise.”
Meanwhile, there are other long lasting physical wounds from these Wars on Terror that will be the main cause of stress for families and the soldier’s care-givers for decades to come. There are paralyzed veterans. There are those who have lost eyes and limbs—not to mention certain potential job prospects and earnings in certain areas of the global and US economy.
EDUCATION: JOHNNY COMES MARCHING HOME
As many young people did at the Vietnam War-era, I once picked up the classic WHEN JOHNNY GETS HIS GONE as I was a high school student.
JOHNNY was written by the Coloradan, Dalton Trumbo, who was one of the original 10 blacklisted writers in Hollywood. Trumbo had written the work, WHEN JOHNNY GETS HIS GONE, in 1939, i.e. prior to America’s entry into WWII. Trumbo later rued his decision to publish it as he came to support the USA-UK-Soviet Union and their fight against fascism in 1941-1945.
Also, Trumbo eventually was sent to jail in the midst of the early 1950s anti-communist hysteria as he later refused to name names or tell on others who had joined the Communist Party during the WWII period—i.e.when the USA and the Soviet Union were allies
JOHNNY was later made into a film (1970) during the hey-day of the anti-Vietnam War mobilization in the USA.
According to one recent reviewer, Tom Joad, WHEN JOHNNY GOT HIS GUN “is the story of a young man, who like many others, goes to war because he is told by the leaders of his country to go to war. He is injured in that war as a bomb explodes next to him. He has lost both his legs. Both his arms. His hearing is lost, his eyes cannot see, his mouth cannot speak. He has no face. But, strangely he lives, if it can be called that, in a military hospital. The nurses pump the food into a hole in his stomach, they clean him, and he exists in his own world for years with no real communication with anyone. He then comes to realize he can communicate by Morse Code. By moving the stump of what is left of his body he can communicate to the world in dots and dashes. And finally there were people who understood what he was doing. A message is tapped on his stomach; he is asked “what do you want?” After reflecting on how he can have a meaningful life outside the virtual prison of this hospital, he comes to realize he has a special mission.” http://www.tomjoad.org/johnnygothisgun.htm
If readers want a taste of this book on line, they can go to this web pages: http://www.thirdworldtraveler.com/General/JohnnyGotHisGun.html
One interesting thing about Trumbo’s didactic anti-war monograph is that it has two main tales: (1) The horror of war mixed with the sweet memories of youth and family and (2) the messianic vision of a world where war is over—possibly due to the bloodbath of a major war killing off all of us.
Turning toward the military industrial complex and those leaders, like the current U.S. President and Vice-President, who would send thousands or millions to their deaths (or to their dismemberment), the messianic victim-protagonist in Trumbo’s book, says to the powers that be: “We are men of peace we are men who work and we want no quarrel. But if you destroy our peace if you take away our work if you try to range us one against the other we will know what to do. If you tell us to make the world safe for democracy we will take you seriously and by god and by Christ we will make it so. We will use the guns you force upon us we will use them to defend our very lives and the menace to our lives does not lie on the other side of a no-mans-land that was set apart without our consent it lies within our own boundaries here and now we have seen it and we know it.”
Unlike the more famous, RED BADGE OF COURAGE by Stephen Crane , Trumbo leaves the readers clearly running away from war, rather than joining in a final battle of potential death or dismemberment in a long and bloody series of battles that make up longer wars.
Yet, it is the RED BADGE OF COURAGE, which is almost always universally read in high schools around the world as an example of American literary genius.
Why not require readings, like WHEN JOHNNY GOT HIS GONE or the biographical BORN ON THE 4TH OF JULY by Ron Kovic?
In other words, parents across America and on DOD bases around the globe need to demand a more balanced view of war in school than they are receiving now—from both social studies, history, and English courses.
ANOTHER AREA AMERICANS NEED TO EDUCATE BETTER IN
Obviously, another area where both parents and youth need to be educated is in the political economics of war.
The area of focus in political economy should be on families and the real costs to family and societies posed annually by the USAs dependence on the intelligence & defense industries in the USA--as well as posed by decisions made by & in life in America’s DOD (Department of Defense).
There are now millions or even tens of millions of Americans who are rather directly dependent on the U.S. military- or intelligence communities for jobs for them--and salaries for their families.
There are even multi-generational military families across the continent (and stationed around the world), such as was the case for presidential candidate, John McCain, and his father’s family. (This was also certainly true for Jim Morrison, a contemporary of young John McCain, and who was also the son of an admiral.)
This means that many Americans have grown up in a military muscle flapping world all their lives and think relatively little of it—until a loved one comes home in a box, severely traumatized, or is dismembered in war.
KNOWING SUCH MILITARY DEPENDENT FAMILIES
Many of you know the legacy of such military families. The image of them was tragically (and comically) portrayed by the Lt. Dan figure in the film, FORREST GUMP.
I know fairly well one such multigenerational military family who finally persuaded their son into finally signing up for a military career in the midst of 1990s. Let me explain, 8 years earlier that son had left the military family’s base home in Georgia at 18 and had rebelled against signing up for the Army (and following the path of his parents),
They were able to do this within a year after the 1991 Gulf War because of the 1990-1992 recession. They also succeeded in persuading their rebellious son to join because of the cultural and educational contexts within which many Americans have been cocooned or embedded since WWII.
However, now with nearly 96 percent of those victims of war coming home alive from major theater hospitals in war zones this 2008, America’s traditional military parents (and non-military families) of brave- and dependent- American soldiers stationed around the globe need to ponder the possibility that they will one day have to take care of their kids and their loved ones for years.
Let’s count the costs Americans!
What kind of future do we want for ourselves and children?
The AARP article ends with a touching tale and photo of Marine Sergeant Shurvon Phillip and his mother, Gail Ulerie, 48. The author, Yeoman reveals, “Before he was injured in Al Anbar, Iraq, Marine Sergeant Shurvon Phillip told his mother, Gail Ulerie, 48, not to worry about his safety. ‘Everything is gonna be all right, Ma,’ he told her. ‘I’m reading my Psalms.
“Then, in May 2005, Shurvon’s Humvee hit an IED. The resulting brain injuries left him quadriplegic and unable to speak. Gail, an immigrant who came to the States from Trinidad, had to quit her two jobs so she could take care of her 27-year-old son. Initially, the work overwhelmed her. “Lord, I don’t think I can do this,” she cried out one day while bathing Shurvon.
“But today, having coped with his many surgeries and infections, Gail has accepted her new life caring for her son. Her time is now spent ferrying Shurvon between hospitals, rehabilitation centers, and their home in Richmond Heights, Ohio. She keeps him clean and helps exercise his arms and legs. And because he is prone to frequent vomiting, she always stays near him to make sure he doesn’t choke. The VA pays for eight hours a day of home health care. The rest of the time Gail is on her own. As many parents in Gail’s situation find, the stress can be crushing. Gail struggles to concentrate; occasionally she binge eats. She wears a hairpiece to cover the thinning hair on her scalp. Without a job, she cannot afford treatment for the cataracts doctors say could blind her. But she continues to resist moving Shurvon into a long-term care facility. ‘Nobody can take care of Shurvon like I can,’ Gail says.”
The even sadder thing is that many military families are not currently physically and economically able to take care of their injured veteran offspring over the long haul.
More importantly, America, from a family and economic perspective, who will take care of these elderly parents ?
Invisible Wounds of War,” Rand Center for Military Health Policy Research, 2008. http://rand.org/pubs/monographs/MG720/
Tom Joad, WHEN JOHNNY GOT HIS GUN, http://www.tomjoad.org/johnnygothisgun.htm
Yeoman, Barry, “When Wounded Vets Come Home”. http://www.aarpmagazine.org/family/when_wounded_vets_come_home.html?NLC-WBLTR-CTRL=F1-52308
WHEN JOHNNY GOT HIS GUN, http://www.thirdworldtraveler.com/General/JohnnyGotHisGun.html
Labels: veterans families parents education america military DOD industrial intelligience complex stress trauma peace