Veterans Day links and discussion thread

Some people hardly notice Veterans Day except for the lack of mail delivery. This day reminds others of their own or a loved one’s life-altering military service.

A few thoughts and links on the holiday are below.

Joining the Army changed my father’s life for the better, even though it upset his worried parents. Without the GI Bill, my father wouldn’t have been able to afford a college education. He was fortunate to serve after World War II had ended, and because he did not sign up for the Reserves, he wasn’t called up for active duty during the Korean War. He rarely talked about his time in the service, but many times he mentioned the door the GI Bill opened for him. I also remember him saying proudly that he was the second-best shot in his battalion, even though he’d never handled a gun before enlisting. Years of playing the violin had honed his fine motor skills.

Growing up, I spent little time with war veterans. One of my uncles flew supply planes during World War II, but he only told entertaining stories about his time in Africa. If he witnessed horrors there, my siblings and I never heard about it.

Many war veterans aren’t so lucky. They come back missing limbs or with permanent brain injuries. They may have medical problems stemming from exposure to chemicals, or isolating post-traumatic stress disorder. They have an elevated risk of contracting ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease) in the future.

Some people never come home from the war zone. Almost every day, the team of “I Got the News Today” diarists continue to profile U.S. troops who have died in Iraq or Afghanistan.

A year ago at this time, I worried a lot about a close friend who was preparing for a tour in Iraq. Thankfully, he completed his service in Baghdad and came home safely, but the stress continues to affect him and his family. His brother–his only sibling–is now serving in Afghanistan.

On Veterans Day, I get tired of politicians’ platitudes about honoring those who serve. It’s great that Iowa legislators did some things to improve the quality of life for veterans. But why are we spending hundreds of billions of dollars on a single new weapons system while “serious” thinkers in Washington suggest cutting veterans’ benefits to reduce the deficit?

Why are we still deploying “troops with combat-related traumatic brain injuries […] or PTSD symptoms” in Iraq and Afghanistan? Why are we sending so many troops over there? I still think escalating our involvement in Afghanistan will prove to be one of President Obama’s biggest mistakes.

Share any relevant thoughts in this thread.

UPDATE: The American Institute of Business in Des Moines has been recording veterans’ stories to send to the Library of Congress. Leonard Boswell’s interview about his Vietnam experience is here.

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