My primary hope in sharing this information and whatever comments that follow is that we (as a nation, whatever that means, and as brothers and sisters sharing life on the planet) continue to remember our U.S. military servicemembers and veterans. First I'd like to share that Richard Stockton College of New Jersey's Office of Veterans Affairs will host a Veteran Women, Minority and Service-Related Disability conference on February 26, 2013. According Patrick Shields, coordinator for Veterans Affairs at the university,
The mission of the conference is to connect these veterans with the services and benefits they have earned, which include health care, mental health, education, housing, employment and small business opportunities and grants. Emphasis will include college-adjustment issues.I hope to see many more such conferences occurring at colleges and universities as veterans return home in greater numbers in the next few years.
In the necessary, and sometimes heated conversation on DailyKos over the current use of drones by the U.S. in its covert "war on terror," itself, still a nebulous descriptor, discussions range across the moral, legal, and future domestic and international relations ramifications, as well as the longer-term implications for the future of maintaining a democratic society, resulting from pursuing this combat strategy. The purpose here is neither to overlook nor diminish the significance of that conversation. I've followed a number of the articles and comments posted here and find them compelling. They have caused me, as I think they should anyone exposed to the intellectual and emotional responses surrounding such covert activities, a deep analysis of my own beliefs about where the nation has appeared to be heading politically since 9/11.
At the same time, as I told a colleague just prior to Congress' authorizing the foregone conclusion of protracted U.S. military action(s), "Watch what happens when the desktop warriors can't stomach the human and financial impact of their decisions." Those decisions involved, apparently, blind or self-deluded acceptance of an inarguable need for military engagement and feverish urgency to commit (other peoples') lives to pursuit of such engagement. I believed then what I see now, that many war-advocate blowhards would soon lose interest in those wars and/or find new subjects to blow hot air over and those questioning or arguing against decisions for armed engagement might lose interest in advocating for veterans or even in their own disgust over ongoing carnage employ self-righteous indignation toward veterans for being "duped" into participating in something those who are so indignant would never allow themselves to have been duped into doing for any reason (or certainly not for an "unjust cause" to coin a Vietnam-era). I don't see nearly the levels of hostility toward veterans as I recall from that era, and there is much more general and targeted sympathy and empathy these days for both our veterans and countless civilian victims of the nation's ongoing military and paramilitary activities. This is heartening. Still, I see growing evidence even where I work (in military and veterans education) of indifference toward what I believe this nation, after committing its citizens to war should never (again) forget, that the impact of such commitment on servicemembers, veterans and families must be borne by the society as a whole, whether its various members agreed with the decision to engage in war or not.
I also believe I am not naive enough to realize the many social and economic issues requiring our compassion as well as our moral and intellectual energies. At the time I commented on those armchair warriors, I was employed helping colleges and universities find funds for education and research, and understood pretty well the long-term economic implications for fighting a, basically, unfunded war on two fronts. More specifically, I tried to foresee the eventual impact of these "off-the-books" wars as their pursuit was playing out in relation to the nation's investment in education and research, and I believed that the wars would contribute significantly to a future crash in the U.S. economy. In fact, in 2005, I published an article in which I tried to argue for early indications for future "belt-tightening," i.e. "austerirty," in non-Defense research and education funding, as well as for the future discretionary budget crisis as a whole.
So, yes, I believe there's no dearth of issues demanding attention from people of conscience and compassion. Therefore, I ask merely that we continue to keep our military members, veterans, and their families, as a whole, in mind and heart.
According to the National Center for Veterans Analysis and Statistics (NCVAS), there are over 22 million veterans from all eras still living. Among them, over eight percent are women (about two and one-quarter million). Close to the same number can be categorized as "minorities." The categorizations are fluid, especially applying the ethnic make-up among Hispanics. Also fluid are statistics regarding how many veterans might qualify as "disabled," when one examines ongoing research on Post-traumatic Stress Syndrome (PTSD) and Traumatic Brain Injury (and its many affects). So-called "credible" estimates I have read for veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan range between 20 to 30 percent for PTSD. In any case, it is pretty certain that the need to keep veterans and their families in our consciousness and future discussions will persist, even with competition among a plethora of issues that require people of conscience's attention.
Organizations such as Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America tirelessly advocate for all veterans and post updated statistics on U.S. casualties gleaned from DOD statistics: OFFICIAL DoD COUNT OF:
Troops Killed in Iraq: 4,475Our servicemembers, veterans, and their families experience the ongoing impacts of the nation's earlier decision to commit to military action. Whether or not individual citizens fully agreed with that decision or have ever supported the "conduct" of what became (and is becoming) those wars, the threat to democratic principles is at least as much at stake in how we treat our warriors and their families as it is in how we argue the morality and efficacy of using drones to continue those military actions.
Troops Killed in Afghanistan: 2,043
Wounded in Action: 50,357
Potential Suicides in 2012: 349