Respect, treatment for veterans finally a national priority?
by Donna Teresa, Homefront Journal
George Washington was once quoted as saying that "the willingness with which our young people are likely to serve in any war, no matter how justified, shall be directly proportional to how they perceive veterans of early wars were treated and appreciated by our nation."
I wonder what George would be thinking now, after all the revelations of veteran neglect at Walter Reed Hospital.
If there is some good to have come from these sad discoveries, it is that, finally, after so many years and so many wars later, veteran care is being debated and will hopefully be met with a higher priority. The story continues to unfold and as others step forward during this investigation, we must not forget that there are many sides to a story.
Captain Gordon W. Bell, Medical Service Corp, U.S. Army Reserve, 7218th Medical Support, says facility neglect goes back prior to the Iraq War.
"I was called to active duty in March of 2003 as part of a medical unit supporting operations at Ft. Knox," he said. "The barracks we were initially put in were substandard and had problems. Those problems were the result of years of neglect. In the budget cuts of the 80s and 90s after the fall of the Berlin Wall and Soviet Union, we didn't need a big military. We didn't need large bases to house mobilized troops…
"One of the biggest areas of savings in those days was to cut back on preventative maintenance. You cannot expect that rooms to house all the numbers mobilized would be up to the standards of the local travel lodge when they had not had maintenance pulled on them.
"The folks at Walter Reed were the folks in 2003 directing us at Ft. Knox to 'deal with the problem' and 'get it fixed' but were not willing to give us additional funds. Through the efforts of many caring medical personnel, we marshaled what resources we had and made it happen. We came up with very inventive solutions to address problems and more importantly, took care of our troops."
Bell continued: "The problem at Walter Reed are not medical problems, they are leadership problems or lack of. People have been relieved of their duties for their failures and rightly so, but please do not condemn the Medical Corps. I know people at Walter Reed who are responsible for the facilities.
"Walter Reed has unique challenges that I did not face in my position of facility management. The people in the military medicine are some of the finest, most intelligent and caring people you would ever want to meet. It is not an easy job in the best of times with a big budget, to provide war time services during budget cuts. It is easy to criticize, but no one has any idea what challenges have been overcome and problems diverted.
"If and when this investigation ends, there is one thing I know. Veterans that I have listened to in these hearings are not looking for a witch hunt. I haven't even heard of any of them asking for anyone to lose their job over this incident. All they want, as they have always wanted, is to be treated with honor and respect.
"I don't think that is asking for too much. Someone quoted the veterans who were speaking up as 'whiny beggars.'"
If that is so, then thank heaven for those who "whined" and had the courage to tell their stories and "begged" for the right to be treated like a human being. Speaking out has created change and improved treatment for their fellow veterans now and for the future.
Will veterans finally be a priority in this country? I hope so, because, I think George Washington would've wanted it that way.