As I am penning these words, the last of the American soldiers are leaving Iraq. The war there is, at last, over.
But the fact is that for many of the men and women who prosecuted our nation’s goals the war will never be over. Some of them are aware of this now and more will be aware of it later as the delayed reaction of genetic trauma reveals itself. We have spent billions on the war in Iraq, but the expense is not over, it has only just begun. The coffers of the military will not be debited, instead it will be the coffers of the Veterans Administration that will bear the expense as thousands of warriors require care to try and heal the wounds they suffered in our name.
The needs of these fine people will have to be met. It is our obligation and our duty to provide for those needs. It’s not a handout, it’s anything but. We all made a firm contract when we sent these people into war. We spent them like charges on a credit card and now begins the time we will have to pay the true bills of war. We owe these men and women a lot more than simple medical care. We owe them the opportunity they lost because they tended to our national needs when they well and good might have seen to their own. We interruted their lives, their careers, and their education and we must absolutely restore those things to them. To do any less demeans the value of what they did, demeans our nation’s character, and demeans our very government by making it a huckster and a scam artist who derives its pride through cheap deception.
We have heard the likes of South Carolina’s Jim DeMint, who claims that there is nothing at all special about those who have stood up to fight. They do not, he maintains, deserve any kind of special treatment. To that, I agree. There should be nothing special about restoring the lost advantages that we took from them as we sent them off to war. But DeMint doesn’t mean it that way, to him a veteran is merely a tissue upon which one blows their nose and discards with some disdain. He does not understand that his attitude makes him another kind of tissue, the kind by which we clean ourselves after a bowel movement. Yet there are supporters to his beliefs, hiding in one of the parties whose candidates are vying for our highest government offices. God bless those who don’t share the grotesque dementia to which he voluntarily subscribes.
It is our duty and obligation to our returning warriors to help them find and attain housing, to receive education useful in the private sector, to give them emotional and psychological support to help erase the nightmares they have endured on our behalf. And, of course, we owe it to them to to care for their health, those laid low at this moment and that will be laid low in the moments to come, far into the future. These will not be new expenses for us all to bear, but the inevitable payment for instant gratification of national security we have already spent on credit. Our veterans have used their bodies and minds as a sort of mortgage lender, giving material strength to our nations needs and now we must repay the loans they made to us. Veterans needs are not a line item cost in the national budget to be negotiated as an unwanted expense. The time to make that kind of choice is long gone; it was made when this nation elected to engage in hostility for its own sake.
Please welcome these wonderful people back home. Revel in the joy that they can celebrate the coming holiday with friends and family at their side, in easy reach. Smile at them and show them your pride in their accomplishment with a handshake or a wave, a salute and perhaps a quick embrace. When you look at them know what they have given to you and all of us through their own sacrifice, ingenuity and resourcefulnes, and for their tremendous strength of will.
It is their strength that gives our nation our strength as we incurred a debt to them we might never be able to fully repay.
Welcome home soldiers. Welcome home and thank you so very much.