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Veterans deserve our thanks

By Staff
Gene Aittala USN Retired, Hartselle
Memorial Day is a time to remember and honor all of the Veterans of this great nation of ours, the United States of America. In particular, we must always remember the veterans who given the ultimate sacrifice, their lives, for our beliefs in our system of democracy "that all men are created equal." Greater love hath no man than to give his life for his country.
We take the freedom we enjoy all too lightly. Most citizens simply take for granted the freedoms we have come to enjoy in the United States. Too many citizens say that freedom is not my job, let someone else fight for my freedom. Even most of the local clergy have forgotten that it is the Veteran who has given us the freedom of religion. I know who paid the price for the freedom I and my family enjoy. Who paid the price for the freedom you enjoy?
For veterans to compete with the special interest groups they need to join a veterans organization of their choice. This is the only way veterans can have an input to their elected officials. This is the only way we veterans can be organized and be heard in Washington DC. Veterans and military retirees, you cannot just sit around and let someone else do the job for you when it comes to veteran and retiree benefits. And do not forget to get out and vote.If you do not vote, you do not have a gripe.
The true greatness of a country is measured on how well the government lives up to the promises made to its military. The United States has not been good at living up to the promises it has made to the military forces. All too frequently veterans and military retirees are treated according to what I call the "dog theory"; you have crime in the neighborhood you buy a big bad dog, crime goes away you shoot the dog. "You have a crisis some where in the world you call up the American military, when the crisis is over send the troops home; we will call you, do not call us and if you are having any medical problems it is all in your head.
You read of case after case of where the veterans must take the United States government to court to receive the benefits and medical care they were promised for their service to their country. Frequently it may take years for our government to fess up to things our military is exposed to.
Veterans and retirees, we are under attack by the current administration. The leader of this attack on our benefits is Dr. David Chu, Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel Readiness. Dr. Chu has only two bosses. He answers directly to the Secretary of Defense and by extension to the President. According to Dr. Chu the benefits provided to veterans and to military retirees is preventing the Department of Defense from providing the necessary fighting equipment to our active duty forces on the fighting fronts of the war on terror. Veterans, reservist and retirees, are we going to take this untruth lying down or are we going to stand up and fight.
At a time when the Veterans Administration Health budget should be increasing in real dollars it is decreasing due to the rising cost of medical care. The VA healthcare budget was increased by 3.5 percent from FY 2005, but an increase of 10 percent to 14 percent is needed just to keep up with current services. Let your elected officials know this is just not acceptable.
Citizens take note; Rome did not collapse over a period of a few years, but over a period of time as the Roman citizens became soft. At the peak of Rome's glory the military man was honored and revered by his countrymen. As the glory of being a military man declined so did the Roman Empire and the rest is history. Is this the path we in the United States are headed down?
If it is the goal of the citizens of this country to have our military as an all volunteer force, then we must be prepared to pay for an all volunteer military. We must once again make the military an honorable profession. Too few of our citizens have a direct investment in the freedom of our beloved country.
You can condemn our country for all of its faults, for the way the politicians sell out our system of democracy to the special interest groups that line the pockets of our elected officials. I call it "democracy for sale to the highest bidder." If we are so bad, why are people of the world lined up at our doors waiting to get in? I have found no other country on this earth that I would rather be a citizen of, despite all of our faults.
We are still the greatest nation in the history of mankind. If we wish this to continue to be The greatest nation on the earth we must stand behind our military and say they deserve the best. It is a small price to pay for the freedoms we enjoy and take for granted.
Enjoy your freedom, thank a veteran. Let us give a special "thank you" to all the latest veterans of the wars on terrorism in the Middle East and the other places around the world where we have our military on duty protecting the freedoms we have in America. Let us welcome our troops home, giving them the honor and dignity they deserve. And let your elected officials know that the citizens of this great country will not tolerate the poor treatment of veterans which has been the history of our government.
We must remember! Without veterans there would be no United States of America. We could still be British citizens, or we could be paying homage to the Nazi swastikas, the flag of the Rising Sun or the Hammer and Sickle. The price of freedom is paid for in blood and guts. War has no glory and is a bloody business. There are no real winners in war; one side just does not lose as bad as the other side. And here in America Veterans seem to be on the losing side and short end of the stick.
In closing, I do wish individuals who have never served in the military would stop telling active duty, reservists, veterans and retirees just what benefits they enjoy. All too frequently they do not know what they are talking about. When an individual is on active duty defending the Constitution of the U.S. he is not protected under the Constitution, but falls under the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ). Also, while on active duty the military member does not have the right to speak out against the government or the officers appointed over him/her, in particular the President of the U.S., who is the Commander-in-Chief of the military forces. All veterans (any one who has served in the military and was discharged under honorable conditions) are eligible for Veterans Administration health care, but are not covered by Tricare (formerly Champus). Retirees (any one who has served in the military 20 or more years and was honorable discharged and is eligible to draw retirement pay) qualify for VA health care. care.e.Tricare.