Whether the war is unpopular, veterans deserve our support
November 9, 2012
Did you notice how the subject of Afghanistan attracted almost no attention in the presidential election? Although this fractured area continues to be rocked by deadly car bombs, and American troops have become targets for the Afghan troops they are assigned to train, the decade-long war gets little attention from most national politicians and media organizations. Unlike World War II, which demanded sacrifice from soldiers and civilians alike, this war has been tucked away into a tiny corner of our consciousness.
"The Forgotten War." It’s a name first used to describe the Korean conflict of the 1950s, but more recently applied, with good reason, to Afghanistan. President Obama’s announcement that he would pull all troops out of the region by the end of 2014 may have given a reason for many of us, consciously or not, to put this war in the rear-view mirror — while the death toll continues to grow.
Meanwhile, the veterans of previous wars — especially Vietnam and Iraq — try to fend for themselves in a country that seems more concerned about cutting taxes than funding social programs. Estimates of the number of homeless veterans in America are staggering ranging from about 130,000 to 250,000. In addition to physical injuries, large numbers of veterans also struggle with alcoholism, drug abuse, depression and posttraumatic stress. Ironically, those who have served their country honorably often have difficulty finding and keeping jobs in civilian life.
In this election it took a local Congressional candidate, Donna McAleer, to remind us of the debt we owe our veterans.
In the late 1960s and early 1970s, many U.S. servicemen returning from Vietnam were shunned by a country that was tired of government deception and body counts and photographs of children burned with American napalm. It took years, but the American public finally learned to make the distinction between an unpopular war and the soldiers who fought in that war — many of them conscripted against their wishes.
It is a lesson we need to remember as the war in Afghanistan drags on. We owe our soldiers our gratitude for their willingness to put themselves in harm’s way on our behalf. And we can express that gratitude by supporting them when they come home — not only on Sunday, Veterans Day, but on the other 364 days of the year as well.