U.S. Dead Deserve Dignified Homecoming

Bring our boys home – all the way home! Our fallen soldiers deserve first-class treatment, but as things stand, Uncle Sam is treating them like cargo. Those lucky enough to be returning alive aren’t fairing much better, as horrific tales of run-down military hospitals have recently swept the news. If we can’t offer our military the support and benefits they need at home, how can we possibly expect them to continue serving our country proudly?

We have heard just about every negative aspect of the supposed war on ‘terrr’ (as our president puts it) that we thought could possibly exist. Apparently we were wrong. In an article published by the Associated Press last month, I first learned of what could possibly be the closest thing to a kick in the nuts from the U.S. government. The article briefly mentioned the fact that when returning the body of a dead U.S. soldier to their family for burial, the military will only pay to have it flown to the nearest major airport.

‘hellip; I’ll wait and let you think about that statement for a moment.

For a great majority of the families having to receive their loved ones’ body from Iraq, they are three or more hours from the nearest major airport. How can anyone consider this the right thing to do in such a case? If the military was willing to send a recruiter out to MiddleofNowhere, Kan., to recruit this young man, then surely they can afford to get a wooden box out there.
Luckily, we have at least one smart man sitting in the House of Representatives that sees the error in the ways of the federal government. Rep. Bart Stupak, D-MI, has introduced legislation that would require the Department of Defense to deliver the body to the military or civilian airport of the family’s choice. Why is it that only one senator has seen the problem and thought of a solution? I’m pretty sure that there had to be at least one person in the room when the DOD made the decision to skimp out on the ‘dead soldier transportation budget’ that had an objection.

Ultimately, this less-than-common sense practice can’t be immediately blamed on President Bush (I know, it would be easier, wouldn’t it?). I was unable to find out a specific time, but it’s probably safe to assume that this has been going on for quite some time, and we just didn’t know it.

Most recently, it has been brought into the public’s attention that we have at least one military hospital out there that is in such poor condition that even the rodents don’t like it. The most astonishing thing in the case of Walter Reed is that the administrator there claims to have not known about it! How do you not know about a building with paint peeling off the walls, covered in mold, infested with mice and roaches and people have filed complaints about it?!

Coincidentally, the parts of the hospital that aren’t severely run-down are some of the nicest you’ll find. Go figure. A reporter from Time Magazine recounts his time spent there after losing a hand in a grenade attack as being ‘exemplary.’ This is the type of place that, in most cases, you actually want to go to if you come out of the war with a severe injury. What went wrong then, you might ask? A lot of things, and fast.

Walter Reed, like many military-run hospitals, was never intended to handle the sheer volume of soldiers that we’re returning from war with severe injuries. Reed is still a first-class hospital, no less, but things just got so out of control that the administration had no way of keeping order. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that what happened is excusable in any manner, but the blame shouldn’t be all on them.

Keep in mind that this news story only focuses on one of many hospitals across the country that service military personnel. Most people are well aware of the poor treatment that former soldiers receive at VA hospitals-a problem that is nothing new. Many of these same complaints have existed since the Vietnam War when our country experienced a lot of problems that we are facing today.

Unfortunately, these are just two of many mistreatments that our armed forces are experiencing. There are many more issues that the press doesn’t discuss and will probably never address. The point that I want to make is that despite the fact that we may disagree with the war, we still need to support our troops and make sure that they receive the care and benefits we know they deserve. When Congress talks about cutting troop funding, that isn’t just money to send more troops, it’s also the money we spend on their pension and benefits things we shouldn’t be cutting. I can only hope the men ‘amp; women that have recently been let go from Walter Reed are being flown only to the nearest major airport just to see what it’s like. Now get out there, and write your congressman, bro!

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