Last Friday, news broke of an Army vet, suffering from PTSD, killing three staff members at the Pathway rehabilitation facility in Yountville. The picture accompanying the story showed a group of sheriff’s deputies all dressed in camouflage uniforms. My first thought was “this looks more like the Army than the police”. It started me thinking about how militarized this country has become. The police and sheriff departments have military uniforms, military weapons, and military vehicles and equipment. Much of the equipment is given to them from the US government.
We have the War on Drugs, the War on Terrorism, and the War in Afghanistan/Iraq/Syria/Somalia/Yemen/etc. We have constant reminders that we are under attack, at risk from drug dealers, Hispanics, Arabs, Muslims, Chinese, Koreans, Iranians, and gang bangers of various colors. The world is full of bad people, coming to get us. Who is us? Why, we are the good people who live in peace and honor, virtuous in our national collective mind.
Protecting us are valiant troops, and we must always remember to honor them, as they are willing to give their lives to protect us. So we make it a point to attend Memorial Day and Veteran’s Day events, fly the flag where we can, and tell uniformed service members, “thank you for your service”. After all, that’s the right thing to do.
Except for when it isn’t.
If we really cared about our service members, we would do our best to keep them out of danger, deploying them only as a last resort. We would elect politicians who truly value the meaning of life, and the life of a soldier, a medic, a nurse, and so forth. Whether it applies to a country in the Mideast or the house down the street, the philosophy of “barge in and start shooting” would change.
Instead, this country rolls along on a constant war footing. While this results in a lot of money for the upper management of the weapon / security / logistics / equipment suppliers to the Pentagon, as well as other national security related companies and personnel, it doesn’t do that much for the military veterans. The meat grinder takes them into the various theaters of operations, and then spits out chunks of legs, arms, minds, and bodies. Thousands dead, tens of thousands wounded (maybe more), and hundreds of thousands of relatives affected. Not to mention three therapy / staff members in Yountville.
Returning veterans, partly because there are so many of them, don’t get the proper care they need. Relatives, family members, and friends & aquaintances all bear part of the burden of care. Add in the emotional cost of kids growing up with missing or damage parents, wives and husbands seeing marriages fall apart, and parents losing their children. What do you end up with? A whole lot of damaged lives. Compared to all that, a few empty words twice a year from politicians and some occasional thanks from the public is a drop in the bucket. Some might say, in a way, that it’s an insult.
We have troops in over 75 countries, and both declared and non declared wars going on in numerous countries. Until the public says “enough”, the wars will continue, and more of our “honored” troops will be disabled or dead. As a country, I think that’s our Badge of Shame.