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Putting The Memorial Back In The Day

Folks in WV have recently learned of vets who have returned from Iraq, only to pass away from what may be a deadly interaction of prescription medication for PTSD. As murrayewv points out in a detailed DKos diary, local news in WV has reported this — but with little to no national press scrutiny:

To date the veterans who have died are Derek Johnson 22 of Hurricane, WV; Andrew White, 23 of Cross Lanes; Eric Lane 29 of Kanawha City and Nicholas Endicott of Logan country. Today’s story from the Charleston Gazette-Mail was written by Julie Robinson. She reports:

Stan White, father of soldier Andrew White, has become an advocate for families of returning veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder. During his son’s struggle with the disorder and since his death, White has tracked similar cases. He knows of about eight in the tri-state area of Kentucky, Ohio and West Virginia….

"When I talked to his family about Derek, I realized it was the same old story," said White. "It was all too familiar. He was taking those same drugs as the others, and, yes, I believe they are still prescribing that combination."

Here are some more links to this story: link.

We owe our nation’s veterans better than a shrug of the shoulders after they have put their blood and lives on the line, for both visible and unseen wounds. And what they are getting at the moment is simply not right.

As Joe Galloway of McClatchy puts it:

This year, however, I’ll depart from tradition and ask that we reflect less on our fallen comrades who are at peace, and more on those veterans – especially those from our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan – who are alive and need our help.

How strange that today in our country, in a time of war, battles are raging over the need for medical care, educational benefits, employment opportunities and assistance for those who’ve served honorably and come home to begin new lives in a nation they risked their lives to defend.

The shameful thing is that most of those battles are being waged against the very government, the very bureaucracies, the very politicians who sent those young men and women to war in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Maybe the right word here isn’t shameful, but criminal.

On Capitol Hill, our lawmakers debate the pros and cons of a new GI Bill that would provide our latest combat veterans with education benefits at least equal to those that their grandfathers received when they came home from winning World War II.

Our president has threatened to veto that bill if Congress passes it. The Republican candidate to succeed him, Sen. John McCain, a veteran and former prisoner of war himself, refuses to support that GI Bill and offers a watered down, cheaper substitute….

Others among us wage endless battles and rage against the very agency charged with providing medical care, disability pensions, mental health care and counseling and, yes, the parsimonious educational benefits for all who’ve served and sacrificed for our country – the Veterans Administration.

In recent months, VA officials have been caught providing false statistics that far understate the true number of veterans, old and young, who commit suicide. They’ve ordered doctors to diagnose fewer cases of post-traumatic stress disorder and to substitute a diagnosis of a lesser, temporary stress disorder….

Let’s all pay lip service to Support Our Troops. But if we want to be honest, we should edit those yellow-ribbon bumper stickers to say Support Our Troops – As Long As It Doesn’t Cost Anything….

And it goes on. In the past, I’ve posted ideas for helping out veterans, their families and especially their kids — you can find those, filled with links and ideas here, here, and here. The fantastically thorough Hilzoy runs down McCain hypocrisies on veterans issues. (H/T Yglesias.) And dday updates the continuing saga of the Gen. Petraeus "see you in September" show. But it is these words from a speech given by Oliver Wendell Holmes in 1884 that get right to the heart of putting the memorial back in the day:

…Accidents may call up the events of the war. You see a battery of guns go by at a trot, and for a moment you are back at White Oak Swamp, or Antietam, or on the Jerusalem Road. You hear a few shots fired in the distance, and for an instant your heart stops….

These and the thousand other events we have known are called up, I say, by accident, and, apart from accident, they lie forgotten. But as surely as this day comes round we are in the presence of the dead. For one hour, twice a year at least–at the regimental dinner, where the ghosts sit at table more numerous than the living, and on this day when we decorate their graves–the dead come back and live with us….

And so, remember the costspast, present, and ongoing — and the bravery, the exhaustion and the triumph of will, and the enormous sacrifice and worry of families left behind. Find some way to show compassion toward those who need it most, wherever they may be. Put the memorial back in the day, and honor the service of those who have come before us by serving those who most need a hand. Including those who have put their lives on the line, and who are now being left further and further behind by those who asked so much of them in the first place.

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Christy Hardin Smith

Christy Hardin Smith

Christy is a "recovering" attorney, who earned her undergraduate degree at Smith College, in American Studies and Government, concentrating in American Foreign Policy. She then went on to graduate studies at the University of Pennsylvania in the field of political science and international relations/security studies, before attending law school at the College of Law at West Virginia University, where she was Associate Editor of the Law Review. Christy was a partner in her own firm for several years, where she practiced in a number of areas including criminal defense, child abuse and neglect representation, domestic law, civil litigation, and she was an attorney for a small municipality, before switching hats to become a state prosecutor. Christy has extensive trial experience, and has worked for years both in and out of the court system to improve the lives of at risk children.

Email: reddhedd AT firedoglake DOT com