Blogmocracy in Action!
Guest post by: KristaPeterson!
Veteran Health, Safety and Support:
A Forgotten American Debt
As this administration decides to wind down America’s involvement in the Middle East and begins bringing troops home, we must confront the true costs of war. However, monetary debts incurred through keeping us safe, the uncertain stability of the Middle East and the solidification of our continued unpopularity throughout the world are not the most difficult effects we must come to grips with. Instead, America must face the challenge of supporting our troops as they supported us. Unfortunately, the strong current of anti-military sentiment in America, extending even into politics, coupled with an unwillingness to devote the appropriate amount of funding, threatens to ensure our soldiers never receive the support, recognition or respect owed to them after taking on the burden of protecting a nation.
Sadly, these recent challenges present only the latest instance where the American government has failed its soldiers. Until the 1970s, the American government used asbestos in hundreds of capacities, exposing countless soldiers to the risks of this material. Asbestos, a naturally heat and chemical resistant mineral valued for its insulating properties, saw heavy use in many military capacities, including housing, vehicles and even basic equipment. From the 1940s through the 1970s, military members risked continued exposure to this material, with statistics indicating that 30% of those diagnosed with mesothelioma served at one point in the U.S. military.
What makes this situation for soldiers so devastating is that mesothelioma symptoms generally fail to appear for 20 to 50 years. Unfortunately, with such long delays in exposure, symptoms are rarely connected with this material, meaning patients typically fail to receive quick treatment for this condition. Because identifying the disease in its earliest stages, while treatment options are most numerous and effective, is vital, this delay in recognition helps explain why such a poor prognosis accompanies this cancer. This delay also hurts veterans because the government offers no additional support for medical costs unless they can conclusively prove their exposure occurred during their military service. However, because of its frequent use in numerous industries, especially construction and manufacturing, proving one’s military exposure is confined to that period becomes incredibly difficult, representing another instance where the government fails to account for blatant disregard for their soldiers.
The U.S. military has come under fire regarding its issuance of insufficient protective equipment to soldiers. In response to military members purchasing alternative body armor for use in Iraq and Afghanistan, the U.S. government banned the practice, claiming the body armor provided no additional protection. Instead, Army officials claimed that this privately-made equipment might not meet the standards of official military gear, claiming purchases were a waste of money and put soldiers in increased danger, despite the fact that this privately-purchased armor had not yet been tested by the military at the time of the ban. More likely, the government, fearing the public backlash over knowingly failing to provide the best protection to soldiers because of cost considerations, chose instead to outlaw any unofficial gear in an attempt to avoid any direct comparisons. This unfounded blanket repeal of privately purchasing equipment again highlights the political motivations of a nation without the best interest of their troops in mind.
While true that soldiers do knowingly submit themselves to the risks associated with military action upon joining, those threats should not come from the very government they have sworn to protect. If there is one thing a soldier should be able to rely upon when joining the United States military, it’s the full support of the government they are risking their lives on behalf of. However, our government’s continued refusal to support troops, generally prompted by selfish monetary concerns, stands as a continued black mark against a nation that used to have a proud history of supporting its citizens. Even recently-returning veterans, eager to build a life through education, hit major stumbling blocks when trying to claim GI Bill funding owed to them.
While we cannot definitively measure the toll our liberal government’s vocally unsupportive rhetoric took on soldiers in recent conflicts, the insufficient funding and deficiency of support given to soldiers clearly has led to undue suffering for millions of soldiers and their families. Starting with physical issues regarding asbestos, including disturbing mesothelioma life expectancy facts, and continuing with improper safety equipment, veterans continue to face numerous challenges in an increasingly unsupportive culture. However, as our soldiers prepare to come home from their service, media coverage of their struggles remains largely absent. Perhaps the result of mainstream media’s liberal inclination, these facts continue receiving less recognition in an administration bent on cutting military spending and the benefits owed to veterans. Whether the blame resides with this presidency’s continued hostility towards the military or the droves of impressionable young voters duped by these socialistic ideals, the continued mistreatment of veterans will undoubtedly continue unless more Americans speak up on the behalf of these service members who are the continued target of neglect and scorn.