Thirty-eight years ago, on Jan. 20, 1968, I was shot and paralyzed from my mid-chest down during my second tour of duty in Vietnam. It is a date that I can never forget, a day that was to change my life forever. Each year as the anniversary of my wounding in the war approached I would become extremely restless, experiencing terrible bouts of insomnia, depression, anxiety attacks and horrifying nightmares. I dreaded that day and what it represented, always fearing that the terrible trauma of my wounding might repeat itself all over again. It was a difficult day for me for decades and it remained that way until the anxieties and nightmares finally began to subside.
As I now contemplate another January 20th I cannot help but think of the young men and women who have been wounded in the war in Iraq. They have been coming home now for almost three years, flooding Walter Reed, Bethesda, Brooke Army Medical Center and veterans hospitals all across the country. Paraplegics, amputees, burn victims, the blinded and maimed, shocked and stunned, brain-damaged and psychologically stressed, over 16,000 of them, a whole new generation of severely maimed is returning from Iraq, young men and women who were not even born when I came home wounded to the Bronx veterans hospital in 1968.
I, like most other Americans, have occasionally seen them on TV or at the local veterans hospital, but for the most part they remain hidden, like the flag-draped caskets of our dead, returned to Dover Air Force Base in the darkness of night as this administration continues to pursue a policy of censorship, tightly controlling the images coming out of that war and rarely ever allowing the human cost of its policy to be seen.
What do we need to do to support these men and women? Simply put, we need to elect veterans to office, who will then fund VA Hospitals and clinics, PTSD programs and generally stop the funding cuts in Veterans programs. The chickenhawks in DC just keep cutting the budget for veterans healthcare, without any regard for the lives that have been incredibly altered by war. Of course, many of those officials, including the President and Vice President have no skin the game, so they could care less. The sound like they support the troops, but when it comes to putting their money where their mouths are...they don't.
These injuries will be something these veterans will struggle with for 30-40+ years. This impacts them and their families. Reservists get little or no support at all.
This must stop! Stand up and demand better care for our veterans!