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The ribbons are on the cars, the words are on the marquees, and the signs are in front windows:  “Support our troops.”

We have learned from the Vietnam War.  We no longer make the horrific mistake of transferring hatred for the war onto the troops, or blame them for the political decision to be there.   We are putting the blame for too many who are returned maimed or in flag-draped coffins, where it belongs:  on the shoulders of our elected officials.

Yet, this is only the first step on a path spread out before us.  Instead of walking steadfast forward with purpose and integrity, most of our elected officials have run scared into the bushes.

It is time we push them onto the path.

Society divides itself into two parts when it comes to wars.  Those who support the war pay public tribute to the fallen, speaking on Veterans’ Day of the noble sacrifice our troops have given.  Those who support the troops demand sound military leadership and strategy; the proper equipment needed to win; a true cause to believe in, and the troops brought home when that cause is false or lost.  War supporters give speeches with our uniformed troops as a background.  Troop supporters understand that there are troopers out of uniforms, too, and they are called veterans.  Supporters of war allocate funds only for war.  Supporters of troops and veterans take an eagle eye to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and say, “Not on MY watch will you deny MY trooper or veteran health care, counseling, or benefits earned.”   They allocate funds to the troops and veterans.

Our current and past military personnel are not ordinary men and women. They are an elite fellowship of human beings who have seen the inhumane, survived its cruelty, and served out their duty without flinching.   Let us not make them regret their actions.  For what are we, if we are a country that abandons and abuses its sons and daughters?  We are nothing, undeserving of the noble sacrifices they have given us.  Just as our troops and veterans put their sanity and lives on the line for us all these many decades of wars and conflicts, so must we now come together and tell them it was not in vain.

Today I say anew to our beloved troops and veterans:  your cries for support are no longer echoing in an empty chamber.  Someone has heard you, and someone is answering back.  It took a shameful scandal to draw attention to the abuse of your groups.  Use that now, as much as you can.

Research U.S. senators and representatives and check out their voting records.  Notify your military company’s alumni office, the American Legion, and all local veterans’ groups in your area, of those who voted against your benefits and medical care.  Post this information on websites and in newsletters.  Write the Senate and House Committees on Veterans Affairs and state your intentions:  that all troops and veterans are properly cared for; for anyone who chooses to vote against funding for proper medical treatment and benefits, you will vote them out of office.

To our Congressmen and women, I say this:  do not underestimate the camaraderie among soldiers.  As General (ret.) Hal Moore once described them: “American soldiers in battle don’t fight for what some presidents say on T.V., they don’t fight for mom, apple pie, the American flag.  They fight for one another.”  This strong alliance of active and non-active soldiers is no longer willing to believe in half-promises or insincere public tributes.  They are no longer willing to see their “family” continually abused or abandoned by the system.  Soldiers vote.  And so do their relatives, neighbors, and friends.  You will be voted out of office.  So if you want to keep your seat, get off it and start doing right by these men and women who have done right by you.

Today, our troops and veterans have heard another battle cry and call to arms.  They are gathering together to start the battle for their kinsmen and kinswomen, and their honor.  And nobody knows better than they, how to win on a battlefield.

Those of us who support them are right behind them, united for this cause.

So let this battle begin for those who once served and protected, those who still do, and those who one day will.  Let it not stop until there is unconditional surrender:  good health care, secure benefits, crisis counseling, and family support.

And after the wrongs have stopped; after the right things are completed; after the service and sacrifice are appropriately honored through action; then, and only then, can we all look back upon this country and know that these brave servicemen and women gave it one last thing:  its conscience.

— ( c ) St. John 2009

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