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Not enough attention being paid to veterans

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The Watertown Times front page Nov. 12 quoted local VFW leader William Snyder: “If you forget your vets, next you’ll forget your dead — those who have given their lives for society. Then your society is lost.” Many of us in Veterans for Peace would sadly agree with this warning.

The next day the Times reported that not only are half our discharging vets applying for medical/psychiatric disability, but more than half a million claims, two-thirds of those filed, are pending over 125 days. Good luck to those disabled vets who can panhandle or rely on their families for half a year or so. A “heroes’ welcome”?

Veterans are 5 percent of the U.S. but 10 percent of those at a homeless center near Pulaski, whom I sometimes pick up on my weekly run to the Syracuse VA hospital. Were one of them driven by despair and mental anguish to commit suicide, as 18 vets nationwide do every day, would anyone note his passing? “We will never forget”?

The American Legion national commander in the same Times article above said,“The VA has gone backward on (processing disability claims) in the past two years,” and the Center for a New American Security, a Washington think tank, was also quoted in the same Times piece, saying, “Vets see this backlog as a tangible expression of the government’s disdain for them.” So fast and easy to war, so slow to deal with the consequences. Every time. Every war but World War II. Especially now.

Three Watertown Army Reservists reported by the Times on Nov. 6 as killed in Afghanistan brought the number of Fort Drum and other local troops killed to 302, one on his third combat tour, another on his second. These casualties weren’t even the lead headline on Page 3 of the local section. Is the north country an outrage-free zone? Would we so blithely accept 302 local deaths by any other cause? Maybe we benefit from the local wartime economy too much to ask hard questions about the body count.

We bow our heads but don’t protest continuing slaughter in a war 68 percent of the American people have already given up on.

Being pro-veteran but anti-war, we in Veterans for Peace don’t always agree with the VFW. But their warning of how close we may be to losing society’s moral rudder may be accurate, given how indifferent we are to the bodies piling up in our endless wars. Three hundred two families will never see them again. And today we lose more active-duty military personnel nationwide to suicide than to combat.

Roland Van Deusen

Clayton

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