Memorial Day is over and I am left once again reflecting on the holiday and knowing that I haven’t done enough to honor the sacrifices of our military and their families, those currently serving and those who gave life, blood, or otherwise lost a part of themselves. How could I have better honored them? Whatever my meager attempt produced, it would not, could never be, enough.
To feed my melancholy over my perceived lack of ability to make a difference, I checked out a tweet by @jrsalzman, an Iraq war vet and amputee. I wanted a veteran’s take on Memorial Day. After all, it’s his holiday. He left blood, a limb, and friends over there, and probably much more that isn’t visible and is difficult to name. What does J.R. have to say about it?
Why do people keep calling me a double amputee? I still have both legs and most of my left hand. I only lost one limb.
— J.R. Salzman (@jrsalzman) May 26, 2015
On my twitter feed, the best pages lead to a blog and J.R. Salzman has one so I started reading Sorry, But Society Doesn’t Give a Damn About Veterans, posted by J.R. after Memorial Day in 2014. He was rightfully angry about the VA healthcare system, how it has failed our veterans, how it has been failing our veterans for a very long time, and how Americans are just now finding out about this failure. He says if we really cared about our veterans we would do more than fly a flag or cook up some burgers on the grill.
“If we lived in a society where our nation cared about veterans, there would be constant protests outside the White House. People would be storming the hill, demanding to speak with their representatives. People would be demanding that the press hold them accountable for the promises they campaigned on when veterans needlessly die. But its not happening, because society really doesn’t give a damn about veterans” J.R. Salzman
Americans, we have been called out by a veteran.
Even as our military serves here in country and far away, we slowly give away the freedoms they protect. The Memorial Day internet was flooded with photos of flag-draped coffins, white headstones in perfect formation as far as the camera lens could see, fatherless children and soldiers mourning lost brothers. We look for opportunities to thank veterans for their service and shake their hands, perhaps pay for a meal or buy a beer, all while we slowly give away the very freedoms that were so hard won and now are proving hard to keep.
We give lip-service to free speech while any speech that makes someone uncomfortable is labeled hate speech. We stand by while our schools teach our kids to be afraid of guns. We allow ourselves to be bullied into giving free samples of our DNA because we are afraid to question authority and aren’t even aware of the basic rights that are ours through the Constitution and Bill of Rights, fought and paid for by the blood of Americans. This is not the way to honor the sacrifices of our military.
I disagree with J.R. about one thing. Americans didn’t just now find out that the VA Healthcare system does a horrible job at taking care of our veterans.
Not everyone, but a good number of people know that the government fails when they take on healthcare. And by fail, I am using the term in my best capitalist vernacular…they can’t make a profit at it.
Government has been doing large scale healthcare for a long time, in the form of Medicare and Medicaid, along with their management of the VA healthcare system. It is no secret to patients or to the healthcare providers that try to operate and (gasp) even dare to make a profit while caring for these patients of government payers. The fraud in the system and the amount of money that it costs taxpayers is well known.
The government can’t help it. They are large and inefficient, and don’t seem to be able to get a handle on the money that leaks out through waste and fraud. We know this and yet, we give them our healthcare on a national scale in the form of Obamacare. The fact that the government operates a system that doesn’t work for veterans and doesn’t work for Medicare and then we agree to let them try their hand at managing healthcare for the general population speaks to the corruption built into our government. After all, what free-thinking American would knowingly give such a large book of new business to a failing company?
We do. And we do it over and over again.
The IRS is one of the most feared government departments, wielding the power to audit your tax returns to make sure you followed the tax code to the letter, a tax code which is so voluminous that it can’t be read by the average person, much less understood and properly followed. They can take over your business if they find you aren’t in compliance with the law, put a tax lien on your house depriving your children of their inheritance, or garnish your wages directly from your employer. Knowing all this, we allowed our government to give management of our healthcare and oversight of our healthcare records to who? The IRS.
Government officials refuse to produce emails when requested to by government investigators and even go so far as to permanently “lose” them, while the rest of us are required to keep copies of tax documents for years and would face prison if we purposely destroyed the hard drive or server during an investigation. But the media doesn’t want to talk about that.
Instead, we’ll talk about gay marriage.We will talk about how everyone deserves the right to marry who they want, but we won’t encourage our young men and women to finish high school and get married before having children or share with them the statistics that show that people who do those things in that order have a better chance of earning a decent living, buying a house and raising children who also will finish high school.
I agree that a good majority of Americans don’t care about Memorial Day or the reason we celebrate it. These are probably the same people that think it’s okay to let the IRS take over healthcare. I also know that there are many Americans that do care. We just don’t know what to do.
I kept reading the blog posts because jrsalzman dot com had much to say. I came across another post by J.R. about the best military charities, and it occurred to me that this is where we go to make our stand.
We know that big government has failed us in every department and individual Americans are left powerless to do anything about it. What we do have going for us is that we care, and we are generous. If we want to limit government then we have to take their power away from them. We do this by taking back what we so willingly gave away. We take care of our own.
I’m not going to wait for the media to notice or the congress to write some more laws. I’m going to go to those who can make a difference. What if Americans celebrated our military and patriotic holidays, not by having a barbecue or hanging out a flag, but by writing a check? JR’s blog post lists the charities he found that are helpful, or find your own. He gives you a few tips for doing that as well. Or maybe you know a vet or a struggling military family. How about helping out with some groceries or a car repair?
After all the Memorial Day celebrating is done, I challenge you to add up what you spent this weekend on beer and match that amount to one of the charities in J.R.’s post. Yes, it means work on your part. I’m not going to re-list them here. You’ll have to click on the link and look at his list yourself. Do it today.
Our veterans have every right to demand the healthcare that is part of their benefits, and that was promised to them. They have a right to the best healthcare this great country has to offer, but the sad truth is that our healthcare system is broken and not just at the VA. Maybe there will be a government in place one day that takes its responsibilities seriously, but our current path doesn’t seem to be going in that direction. Until it changes, the best hope for our veterans might just be donated dollars going to charities that can access private companies run by honest, decent Americans who want to do the right thing.
What would our country look like if Americans funded our own veteran’s charities and took care of them on our own? Would they feel appreciated? It means we have to do our own research, make sure to avoid charities that are fronts for channeling dollars to further their own agenda, and share when we find a good one.
Our next patriotic holiday is Independence Day, and after that, Veteran’s Day. How much sweeter the celebrations will be when we know that we have actually done something to help, to pay back, to support, and to thank a veteran.
And please share in the comments section what you did to honor a member of our military.