I was one of the lucky ones. I served my country in peacetime. The president was the highly regarded former WWII army general Dwight David Eisenhower. Mr. Eisenhower had seen war upfront and personal, and according to historians shed many a tear over the loss of his troops.
Beirut was in turmoil at the time and the war salesmen in Congress were advocating that we land troops there. My unit was about to be discharged but we were told that we may have to go there. We were the US Coast Guard and we are the service that is poised to land troops in the event of an invasion from sea.
I was young and part of me wanted to experience the “adventure” of war. However I was also familiar with the casualty numbers of the landing craft operators during WWII. I was relieved when the president announced that there would be no American invasion, unlike those cavalier souls in Congress that would put our soldiers in harm’s way at the drop of a hat, his decision would be a thoughtful response.
I listen to those that are quick to praise the soldiers in time of war but who are absent when it comes to taking care of the wounded soldiers when they return. That is, if they come home at all. I am reminded of the great Rudyard Kipling poem, “Tommy.” In that poem he tells us of the high praise of the military when we need them to fight a war and how we don’t even let them buy a drink in a pub when the war is over.
In our country, as you read this essay there are veterans waiting to have their wounds and illnesses cared for. They will wait, and the will wait some more, and some of them will be dead before they ever see a doctor. Thisis not new. It happens to every era, starting with the Revolutionary War.
We have rules for going to war that have been ignored by every president in the last 70 years, except Eisenhower. In addition to the fundamental law of only sending troops to war after a formal declaration by Congress, these rules should be added;
· No declaration of war should be adopted unless a clear description of what constitutes victory is established
· There should be ample money set aside to pay for the education of every warrior.
· There should be a fund of $1 million dollars for every soldier’s mental and/or physical rehabilitation
· All of these costs must be pre-funded with dedicated tax increases, so that these brave souls never have to look to charities to be made whole again.
The declaration of war must contain all of these elements before it is presented to the president. Do you think we would embark on a war if we had to overcome those obstacles? Perhaps, but not so fast.
We all speak so eloquently about the way we honor those who served, but our actions as a nation say otherwise.
Honor our military by giving them the medical attention that they need, and making it more difficult to deploy them.
– Ernie Fazio