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4 Ways to Really Honor our Veterans

Today is Veterans’ Day, the day we stop and say a heartfelt thank you to each and every person who has served our country at home and abroad, in peace and in war. As the mom of one, I am profoundly grateful for the service of the military and deeply aware of the sacrifices made in the course of their service, and I do appreciate them. But appreciation spoken doesn’t mean much past the time the words evaporate in the air. Here are some ideas for tangible action that will speak our appreciation louder than mere words:

  • Hire a veteran and pay them fairly – The Bush Administration has relied heavily upon reservists to fight the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. They have been called from their jobs with little notice, had their tours extended time and again, and when they are finally released from duty, they have no jobs waiting for them. Under the law, they are supposed to get up to a five-year leave of absence to serve in the military with their jobs protected. Yet, 23% of reservists are reporting this:

    [T]hey did not return to their old jobs in part because their employer did not give them prompt re-employment or their job situation changed in some way while they were on military leave…

    They are entitled to file a complaint with the Department of Labor and have that complaint honored. Yet,

    Twenty-nine percent of those choosing not to seek help to get their job back said it was because it was “not worth the fight.” Another 23 percent said they were unsure of how to file a complaint. Others cited a lack of confidence that they could win (14 percent); fear of employer reprisal (13 percent), or other reasons (21 percent).

    Forget the legal obligations here. Isn’t there a moral obligation to support them? And why would employers not avail themselves of the skills that most of these highly-trained, now-seasoned veterans have to offer?

  • Support the HEART Act of 2007: The Heroes Earnings Assistance and Relief Tax Act (HR 3997) extends some key tax provisions and tightens others, including some concerning benefits earned in employer pension plans while on leave for active military service. It has passed the House and was sent up to the Senate last Thursday. Although it seems as though a bill like this would pass relatively unopposed, there are never any guarantees, so please send an email to your Senator encouraging them to support this bill. (Hat Tip: The Pension Protection Act Blog)
  • Speak up in support of health care benefits for ALL who have served. From today’s Boston Globe:

    [N]early 1.8 million veterans had no health insurance in 2004, up 290,000 since 2000. An additional 3.8 million members of their households were also uninsured and ineligible for care at hospitals and clinics run by the Veterans Health Administration of the Department of Veterans Affairs. The 2006 data released this year show little change in these numbers.

    The common school of thought is that all veterans are entitled to VA benefits, but that is not the case.

    Many uninsured veterans are barred from VA care because of a 2003 Bush administration order that halted enrollment of most middle-income veterans. Others are unable to obtain VA care because of unaffordable copayments for VA specialty care, waiting lists at some facilities or the lack of VA facilities in their communities. Almost two-thirds of uninsured veterans were employed, and nearly 9 out of 10 had worked within the past year. Most uninsured veterans were in working families. Many earned too little to afford health insurance, but too much to qualify for free care under Medicaid or VA rules.

    It seems to me that all veterans should have access to health care, either through the VA or through some sort of military-supplied plan. I speak from personal knowledge when I tell you that is not the case. Since Civil War times, this country has only reluctantly repaid veterans’ service — especially disabled veterans — with proper health care and retirement benefits. I don’t see how we can count the cost of weapons and ammunition and exclude (or evade) the cost of properly compensating veterans and their families for their willingness to give up their lives, careers, and health at a moment’s notice in service to their country.

  • Call for a stop to the Iran saber-rattling. Attacking Iran when they have not attacked the US based on trumped-up unproven charges is wrong. It’s also deadly. One of the fundamental rules of war is not to open a new front when in the midst of fighting on an already-established front. We did it with Iraq and now what? Reports that casualties in Afghanistan are the highest they’ve been since 2001. See if this sends chills down your spine:

    The Army and Marine Corps are under enormous strain from years of heavy ground fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. Still, the United States has ample air and naval power to strike Iran if President Bush decided to target nuclear sites or to retaliate for alleged Iranian meddling in neighboring Iraq.

    Among the possible targets, in addition to nuclear installations like the centrifuge plant at Natanz: Iran’s ballistic missile sites, Republican Guard bases, and naval warfare assets that Tehran could use in a retaliatory closure of the Straits of Hormuz, a vital artery for the flow of Gulf oil.

    The Navy has an aircraft carrier in the Persian Gulf area with about 60 fighters and other aircraft that likely would feature prominently in a bombing campaign. And a contingent of about 2,200 Marines are on a standard deployment to the Gulf region aboard ships led by the USS Kearsarge, an amphibious assault ship. Air Force fighters and bombers are available elsewhere in the Gulf area, including a variety of warplanes in Iraq and at a regional air operations center in Qatar.

    Perhaps one of the best ways to honor and thank our veterans and active-duty military is to fight for them to come home instead of sending them into yet more potential for harm?

To all active-duty, retired, and disabled veterans, my heartfelt thanks and pledge to work to support you in tangible ways. You did not make these wars but you fought them. To all of the families who are remembering a lost loved one today, my prayers, gratitude and sympathy go to you and your families. I hope for a day in the not-too-distant future where we can stop counting the number lost and begin welcoming home the survivors for good.

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