Memorial Day: Veterans Honor Soldiers And Civilians That Died

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As a Member of Veterans for Peace (VFP) and Vietnam Veterans Against the War (VVAW), Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA), and the Disabled American Veterans (DAV), I commend the Memorial Day messages from those Veterans and Military Family groups who not only see a direct link between the fiscal cost of the current war(s) but also understand that trillions spend on the continued occupation of Iraq and escalation of war in Afghanistan.

This waste in U.S. dollars, mostly on loan from China, for WE are a debtor nation, does NOTHING but aggravate the problem(s) of how Veterans will be treated by the VA and our government in general when they come Home to War.

The money diverted from Veterans funding because the VA is still discretionary spending NOT mandatory spending, despite conservative-leaning Veterans groups to spin it into something great called Advanced Funding.

Let’s instead make Defense spending discretionary and call it Advanced Funding (wink) with funding provided at the discretion of Congress instead of the Sacred Cow approach to Defense (excuse me Offense) now exhibited by all political parties in Congress and the White House.

Robert L. Hanafin, Major, U.S. Air Force-Retired, Veterans Today News Network

Official Veterans For Peace Memorial Day Statement by President, Mike Ferner

This Memorial Day as we pause to remember the U.S. service members who have died during the nation’s wars, we need to think for another moment of the astounding number of civilians who have perished in those wars as well.

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Here are the numbers, available on a commemorative 2010 Memorial Day Bookmark VFP has issued to help remind us of the true costs of war.

War U.S. Military Deaths Civilian Deaths
Revolutionary 25,174 (unavailable)
1812 20,000 (unavailable)
Civil War 620,000 50,000
WWI 116,516 6,458,886
WWII 405,399 36,372,900*
Korean 54,246 1,847,240
Vietnam 58,177 2,000,000**
Iraq 4,254 1,366,350
Afghanistan 1,036 32,969
TOTAL 1,304,802 48,128,345
* Number includes the 9,000,000 that died in the Nazi concentration camps.

** The Vietnamese government in 1995 estimated that 2,000,000 Vietnamese civilians on both sides died in the war.

As you can easily see, since WWI there have been far more civilian deaths in each conflict than military deaths — and the ratio is getting worse all the time.

If we added in the numbers of people killed by Agent Orange exposure in Vietnam and the number of people who will be killed by exposure to Depleted Uranium munitions in Iraq and Afghanistan, we don’t know what the ultimate number will be, but we know the number will increase every year until the human species is no more.  The half-life of DU is 4 billion years.

Similarly, as with the “Killed In Action” numbers for troops, the number of civilian wounded is many times greater than that of the dead.  The “American War” in Vietnam ended 35 years ago in April of this year.  But walk down the streets of any city in that country and the age of those on crutches and in wheelchairs will tell you that unexploded ordnance and the genetic effects of Agent Orange continue their awful toll.

Not coincidentally, the overwhelming number of civilians killed and injured in our wars since WWII have been among the poorest people on Earth.

The significance of this fact becomes clear when we begin to imagine the conditions the survivors and their families face — often for the rest of their lives.

In the steaming heat of Vietnam or the baking oven that is most of Iraq, what relief is there for a young adult who, year after year, lays crippled on a mat on the floor, with temperatures that hardly go down each night before shooting back up in the morning — and electricity is non-existent or spotty at best even if you have a fan, forget air conditioning.

What of the children who, for lack of things we take for granted like physical and occupational therapy, will rot in bed, dull minds stimulated only by the pattern on the ceiling above them…or what of their parents, one of whom must stay home in constant vigilance with no income, the other working all the daylight hours just to feed and house the family…or the community, the province, the nation, struggling for a better life, hobbled by not having the energy and talent of the multitudes of wounded and their caretakers…or the individuals who can no longer remain heroic models of patient good behavior when their frustration and grief cause them to explode…or the able-bodied family members who might understandably give up hope and decide a life of crime makes as much sense as anything else they’ve witnessed?

No, the costs of war only multiply, broaden and deepen year after year after generation.

Just as VFP members know that no one is the same when they return from war, so is no family or nation the same after being laid waste by modern warfare.

This we must do.  As we remember the soldiers and sailors who have died in the nation’s wars we must take a further moment to reflect upon the broken lives and communities that endure — here and abroad — while paying the true costs of war.  And then take action!  Demand not another dime, not another life be spent on U.S. wars and occupations!

Written by VFP Board President, Mike Ferner.

May 27, 2010

Founded in 1985, Veterans For Peace is a national organization of men and women veterans of all eras and duty stations spanning the Spanish Civil War (1936-39), World War II, the Korean, Vietnam, Gulf and current Iraq wars as well as other conflicts cold or hot. It has chapters in nearly every state in the union and is headquartered in St. Louis, MO. Our collective experience tells us wars are easy to start and hard to stop and that those hurt are often the innocent. Thus, other means of problem solving are necessary. Veterans For Peace is an official Non- Governmental Organization (NGO) represented at the U.N.

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