Archive for Thursday, September 4, 2008

Soldiers at risk for many reasons

September 4, 2008

I did not support the war, but I have never failed to support those who fight there. I did not support the war for a number of reasons: the intervention seemed impulsive, a knee-jerk reaction to horrific events and an intervention that should have been discussed more thoroughly by Congress, not the decision of one or two men; it is a war that would wreck havoc in the lives of not only soldiers but their families as well.

While attending a conference that focused on the war, I had the opportunity to visit with soldiers who had recently returned from Iraq and Afghanistan; some soon-to-be deployed for the third or fourth time. The keynote address of our conference was titled "Of Women, War and the Law," by Assistant Judge Advocate General for Military Law and Operations, Brig. Gen. Malinda E. Dunn.

The presenters, with their slides and personal narratives of the war, put a different face on the war, as did visiting with the mother of a returning soldier, who after serving four years active duty, returned home with health care benefits set to expire in 90 days. Four years of service; 90 days of health care. Something is wrong with this picture.

Having seen these slides and listened to the presenters, I am convinced that we have sent soldiers into harm's way, ill equipped and undermanned. We have not afforded them equipment they need or support personnel to do the job. A scourge on the face of the war effort is the subcontractors and contractors who do shoddy work at inflated prices.

One of the justifications for the use of contractors and subcontractors is the diminished number of troops available. If my figures are correct, the numbers have diminished more than 300,000 since the 1980s. Those jobs routinely done by soldiers, for soldiers and under the jurisdiction of the armed services, are now outsourced to independent contractors. Anyone in Kansas who has called Arkansas and had the call taken from someone in India knows full well the frustrations of outsourcing. Something is wrong with this picture.

Send them into war if need be, but give them what they need to do the job.

My brother-in-law, who served in the Air Force during the Korean War, returned home, lived with my mother and went to college under the GI Bill. He got an education he could not have afforded otherwise, became an engineer and has done well.

When they come home, give them what they need to live healthy, productive lives: health care, education, training, and therapy if necessary. Anything less is unconscionable.


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