Not all heroes wear the uniform of war.
In the United States, however, we take particular pride in recognizing as heroes those who have served in the military.
Yet while we honor our veterans with holidays, parades, discounts at retail stores and restaurants, and endless political rhetoric about their sacrifice and bravery, we do a pitiful job of respecting their freedoms and caring for their needs once out of uniform.
Despite the fact that the U.S. boasts more than 20 million veterans who have served in World War II through the present day, the plight of veterans today is America's badge of shame, with large numbers of veterans impoverished, unemployed, traumatized mentally and physically, struggling with depression, suicide, and marital stress, homeless, subjected to sub-par treatment at clinics and hospitals, and left to molder while their paperwork piles up within Veterans Administration offices.
Still, the government's efforts to wage war on veterans, especially those who speak out against government wrongdoing, is downright appalling.
Consider: we raise our young people on a steady diet of militarism and war, sell them on the idea that defending freedom abroad by serving in the military is their patriotic duty, then when they return home, bruised and battle-scarred and committed to defending their freedoms at home, we often treat them like criminals merely for having served in the military.
The government even has a name for its war on America's veterans: Operation Vigilant Eagle.
As first reported by the Wall Street Journal, this Department of Homeland Security (DHS) program tracks military veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan and characterizes them as extremists and potential domestic-terrorist threats because they may be "disgruntled, disillusioned or suffering from the psychological effects of war."
Coupled with the DHS' dual reports on Rightwing and Leftwing "Extremism," which broadly define extremists as individuals, military veterans and groups "that are mainly antigovernment, rejecting federal authority in favor of state or local authority, or rejecting government authority entirely," these tactics bode ill for anyone seen as opposing the government.
Yet the government is not merely targeting individuals who are voicing their discontent so much as it is taking aim at individuals trained in military warfare.
In recent years, military servicemen and women have found themselves increasingly targeted for surveillance, censorship, threatened with incarceration or involuntary commitment, labeled as extremists and/or mentally ill, and stripped of their Second Amendment rights.
Remember, the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) opened the door for the government to detain as a threat to national security anyone viewed as a troublemaker.
Moreover, it doesn't take much anymore to be flagged as potentially anti-government in a government database somewhere--Main Core, for example--that identifies and tracks individuals who aren't inclined to march in lockstep to the government's dictates.
The case of Brandon Raub is a prime example of Operation Vigilant Eagle in action.
Raub, a 26-year-old decorated Marine, actually found himself interrogated by government agents about his views on government corruption, arrested with no warning, labeled mentally ill for subscribing to so-called "conspiratorial" views about the government, detained against his will in a psych ward for standing by his views, and isolated from his family, friends and attorneys.
Thankfully, The Rutherford Institute came to Raub's assistance, which combined with heightened media attention, brought about his release and may have helped prevent Raub from being successfully "disappeared" by the government.