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VETERANS' DAY OR ANOTHER MEMORIAL DAY?

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This Friday, the 11th, is Veterans ' Day.

But, thanks to our politicians, it will take on all the trappings of another Memorial Day.

Every November 11th our politicians fall victim to unkept-promises amnesia, dutifully ignore the needs of living veterans and head to the cemeteries.

Veterans ' Day was originally known as Armistice Day which commemorated the end of World War I on the 11th minute of the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month in the year 1918.

In 1954, President Eisenhower officially made the 11th of November Veterans ' Day. In his proclamation Eisenhower referred to the sacrifices of veterans "living and dead " and urged Americans to "reconsecrate ourselves to the task of promoting an enduring peace so that their efforts shall not have been in vain. "

Now, Veterans ' Day is a sad, repetitive testament to self-serving politics that has little to do with living veterans.

Once again this year, the president will travel to Arlington National Cemetery to give his Veterans ' Day address. Other politicians will make similar journeys and give similar speeches all over the country.

The main focus, like every other year, will be dead veterans --the dead veterans already remembered on Memorial Day.
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Veterans ' Day should be a time to pay tribute to and say "thank you " to our living veterans. Then why are cemeteries, full of dead veterans, the venue of choice for our politicians on Veterans ' Day? Dead veterans are the perfect audience.

Dead veterans don 't complain about a two-year wait for surgery at their Department of Veterans ' Affairs (VA) hospital. Dead veterans don 't need medication to help control the Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) symptoms that send them screaming into the night. Dead veterans don 't ask why Congress won 't pass legislation authorizing full and mandatory funding for VA healthcare.

In his 2001 Veterans ' Day Proclamation, President George W. Bush, speaking briefly of living veterans said, " ...more than a million and a half have been wounded. Some sustained serious injuries in combat and now live with disabilities ...We can never adequately repay them. But we can honor and respect them for their service. "

President Bush must be reminded that we "honor and respect " dead veterans. Living veterans need much more. But "more " wasn 't mentioned in his proclamation and "more " wasn 't offered. Most discouraging for the 24.5 million veterans living today is that "more " is not being provided as promised time and again.

"Honor and respect " won 't get a needed appointment at a VA hospital. "Honor and respect " won 't pay for life-saving medication. "Honor and respect " does not heal broken bodies and broken minds.
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However, "honor and respect " will get a veteran a flag and a cheap headstone when they die. And maybe, just maybe, a real live bugler to play "Taps " instead of a recorded version played on a government-issue boom-box.

I have this optimistic streak that lets me believe that one Veterans ' Day they 'll get it right. We 'll stop hearing the same speeches and the same meaningless promises.

In my perfect world, politicians would spend Veterans ' Day at a VA hospital speaking with and listening to living veterans instead of addressing headstones. VA healthcare would be fully-funded and no veteran would be denied necessary medical treatment. Our troops in the field would not have to worry about what kind of VA awaits them when they come home.

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Larry Scott served four years in the U.S. Army with overseas tours as a Broadcast Journalist in Korea and the Azores and a stateside tour as a Broadcast Journalism Instructor at the Defense Information School (DINFOS). He was awarded DOD's First Place Thomas Jefferson Award for (more...)
 

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