Thomas D. Segel
In America it Still Seems to be “Tommy this, and Tommy that”
Harlingen, Texas, October 24, 2009: “You talk of better food for us, an’ schools, an’ fires, an’ all: We’ll wait for extra rations if you treat us rational. Don’t mess about the cook-room slops, but prove it to our face. The Widow’s Uniform is not the soldier-man’s disgrace. For it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an’ Chuck him out, the brute!
But it’s “Savior of ‘is country” when the guns begin to shoot; An it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an’ anything you please; An Tommy ain’t a bloomin fool - - you bet that Tommy sees!”
These are but a few lines of the Rudyard Kipling poem “Tommy”, written in 1890 as an expression of how the public views those who serve the nation during times of war…and after. “Tommy”, as the British soldier was called, was not wanted inside the public houses, the theatres, on the trains or anywhere in polite society. ,still, as the poem continues “But it’s ‘Thin red line of ‘eroes’ when the drums begin to roll, …” and toward the end of the tale, after telling Tommy to step to the rear of the line during times of peace, it is “Please walk in front , sir,” when there’s trouble in the wind, O it’s “Please walk in front, sir”, when there’s trouble in the wind.”
Veterans of our nation’s wars feel the words of “Tommy” are a strong reflection of how many in America view their service to the country. We are quick to pay great lip service …lauding our armed forces and those who have served in uniform. It is almost a joke to hear politicians hurriedly tack on “We support our troops” to the end of their constant political blabber. But, then we next hear these same political hacks has stolen away almost $3 billion from combat appropriations to fund special interest pork projects in their home districts.
While such despicable acts are being perpetrated almost a million and a half veterans returning from combat have been identified as having serious mental illnesses. Many of these heroes have been denied needed care.
It is estimated that more than 170,000 veterans, a number equal to the total troop strength of our military in both Iraq and Afghanistan, now find themselves unable to obtain meaningful employment in the civilian world. Theirs should be a place at the very front of the employment line, not bringing up the rear.
There are between 135,000 and 200,000 veterans homeless in America on any given night. These veterans make up 26% of the total homeless population, but less than 10% of Americans ever step forward to wear the uniform.
There is no accurate total of veterans who have combat related illnesses or wounds that are not receiving adequate treatment. A survey has found that 63% of the people in the United States believe these veterans are not receiving good medical care.
Much of the blame for lack of veteran’s services can be laid at the feet of bumbling and mismanaged Department of Veterans Affairs. If a veteran files a claim, it takes almost 200 days to receive a written reply giving him or her a decision. If that decision is not favorable, the veteran may appeal. However from the time they file a Notice of Disagreement until they receive and answer an average of another 971 days have passed. There can be further appeals but some claims take up to seven years to resolve.
At this time there are 450,000 unresolved claims resting on desks in VA offices. One veteran reported his claim took eleven years to be answered in his favor. Many of our veterans who were the subjects of atomic and chemical testing have not had their cases resolved in more than 50 years. No business, school district, or municipality would tolerate such abysmal performance, but when it comes to veterans issues, Americans just yawn, say “we support our troops” and return to their cell phone chatter or TV soap.
If we had more than a handful of veterans serving in Congress this situation would rapidly improve. As things stand now, few in that elite body of 535 people, and even fewer of their children have ever served a day in uniform. In a Congress where those of that special club get offended if they are asked to wait in any line, making veterans wait years for claim resolution is never a matter of concern.
As it was in Great Britain in 1890, in the United States it still seems to be “For it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an’ Chuck him out, the brute! But, it’s “Savior of ‘is country”, when the guns begin to shoot.”
Thomas D. Segel
Saturday, October 24, 2009
Thomas D. Segel