Today is Veterans Day, the 56th since President Eisenhower signed it
into law after the close of the Korean War. As the U.S. wages war in
Iraq and Afghanistan, today's Veterans Day brings columns honoring
soldiers for their service to American society.
Thinking about veterans, I recalled Army Sgt. Robert Bartlett, who
was badly wounded in Iraq. He was driving an armored Humvee that struck
an IED; the blast ripped off much of his face. Shrapnel punctured
internal organs; he lost an eye and was virtually dead when medics
dragged him out of the wreckage. It took two years of surgery before he
But he is irrepressibly proud of his military service -- and
horrified at the ugly reality of war. Months before the blast, Bartlett
told me, an Iraqi had appeared at the front gate of his base, saying
that children were missing from his village. Bartlett took a squad to
investigate. A dozen children had been caught up somehow in a
Sunni-Shiite struggle over a neighborhood. They'd been kidnapped and
shot to death, their bodies left on a dusty street. A joint U.S.-Iraqi
strike force eventually found and arrested the guilty. "War is not ever a good experience,'' Bartlett said between physical
therapy sessions at Walter Reed Army Medical Hospital in Washington. [...]
Most of us don't risk our lives to confront evil; we don't have to. But
it might be worth pondering for a moment why we are spared, and whom we
have to thank for that blessing. Among those who come to my mind are
not only the military veterans, but the civilians I have met in war
zones -- the diplomats, the negotiators, the humanitarian aid workers,
who also risk their lives and absorb war's horror."
- Strong, Not Stressed The Washington Post's David Ignatius counters
concerns that Major Nidal Hasan exposed "an extreme version of what can
happen with an overstressed force." He writes, "In truth, the U.S.
military may be the most resilient part of American
society right now. The soldiers are clearly in better shape than the
political class that sent them to war and the economic leadership that
has mismanaged the economy. [...] Through all its difficulties, the
military has kept its stride."
- Ending Vet Homelessness Retired General Eric Shinseki,
the secretary of Veterans Affairs, explains how VA is working hard to
curb the troubling rate of homelessness among veterans. "Our character
as a nation is revealed by the honors we accord them and
measured by the respect with which we care for them," he writes.
We are developing a five-year plan by which to attack the entire
downward spiral that ends in homelessness. We must offer veterans
education, vocational training and jobs; treat depression and fight
substance abuse; and provide safe housing. We estimate that, every
night, 131,000 veterans sleep on the streets of this wealthiest and
most powerful nation in the world. Six years ago, that estimate
numbered 195,000. While we seem to be making progress, the current
economic downturn threatens to reverse that progress by increasing
veteran homelessness by 10 percent to 15 percent over the next five
years. Simply doing what we have been doing for the last six years will
not be enough.
- 'Healing Our Troubled Vets' The Los Angeles Times warns,
"veterans of the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan may be having a
harder time readjusting to civilian life than previous generations of
warriors." They note "soaring" rates of suicide, depression,
post-traumatic stress disorder, and homelessness, all worsened by the
recession. "The likeliest explanation for these troublesome trends is
military is stretched too thin. In order to fight two Middle Eastern
wars, troops have been forced to serve multiple deployments, and
reservists who thought their combat days were over have found
themselves on the front lines."
- No Unnecessary Wars Middle East expert Juan Cole, who usually pens long columns on foreign policy news, today simply writes: "Veteran's Day: The most patriotic way to honor future veterans of foreign wars is not to create any unnecessarily."
Want to add to this story? Let us know in comments
or send an email to the author at
mfisher at theatlantic dot com.
You can share ideas for stories on the Open Wire.