Tag Archives: Iraq Veterans

Iraq War Veterans At Democratic Convention

Iraqi war veterans are playing important roles at the Democratic party convention here they’ve marched, staged mock foot patrols on downtown Denver sidewalks and met with the former first lady to discuss health care issues for those who served in fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. “The war has really changed this generation,” said David Bellavia, an Iraq veteran who helped form the group Vets for Freedom which advocates against an immediate withdrawal from Iraq. Matthis Chiroux, of Iraq Veterans Against the War, walked around in military fatigues trying to get across what has happened to young men and women who served in combat. Two former members of the military, Rep. Patrick Murphy and Rep. Tammie Duckworth have been noticeable by their fight in Congress against the war.

The generation that is fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan will not remain silent but intends to play a role in shifting their nation from a commitment to war towards one in which war is the last, not the first resort to a crisis. John McCain may have been a member of the military but he has lost contact with what those who have fought in Baghdad experienced in Iraq.

Need More Veterans Attending College

Former Marine Brendan Hart is on a mission to get more veterans in college, especially those who have been injured. He recently pointed out WWII veterans flooded into college but, “now these guys transferring out have to fight tooth and nail to get into schools they may not want to go to.” Recent figures indicate only about 10% of veterans from the fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan have gone on to higher education after completing their service tour. Dartmouth President James Wright, a former Marine, points out that current veteran benefits are not as generous as those given WWII and Korean War veterans. Senator Jim Webb and Senator Chuck Hagel, two veterans of the Vietnam War, are attempting to alter veteran benefits to make them closer to the WWII model.

As a Korean War veteran, I am shocked by the inadequate funding of veterans seeking to attend higher education or secure other forms of training for skilled jobs. We were provided payment of full tuition, a monthly stipend, and, in many cases the cost of books. In 1968, I initiated the Veterans Accelerated Urban Learning for Teaching program(VAULT) at Webster College in St. Louis, Missouri designed for returning Vietnam soldiers who were interested in teaching careers. We placed these men (the initial group was male) as interns in St. Louis public schools which was desperate for male role models in the younger grades. I insisted one-third of our group was of African American background. The college established an accelerated program for the veterans so they could graduate in three years. A similar situation is present today, few urban children encounter male role models in elementary or middle school. Why not bring back the WWII model and provide stipends for veterans who would intern in urban schools while pursuing their teaching certification?

Anti War Veterans March In Denver

Denver authorities had attempted to deny permission for anti-war veteran groups to march in the Veterans Day parade, but finally relented. Members of Veterans for Peace and Iraq War Veterans Against the War marched along with other of their comrades in the day that reminds all Americans of those who served. An anti-war sign dropped to the ground and an onlooker placed her foot on the placard saying, “Today is a day or patriotism, not politics.” An onlooker, Air Force vet, James Hill responded: “They put in their time, they lost their buddies too, and their friends.”

Those who become upset at groups like Iraq War veterans usually condemn them as being “unpatriotic” and associate patriotism as synonymous with supporting Bush and the Iraq war. This nation was founded by men and women who rejected English patriotism and argued for an American viewpoint. Iraq veterans who speak out against war are acting in a patriotic manner by standing behind the values of this society and are willing to challenge those in authority who violate American values.

Iraq War Vets Becoming Part Of Homeless Group

There is growing evidence an unanticipated outcome of the Bush war in Iraq is arising as reports indicate the increasing presence of Iraq War veterans among the homeless. Veterans of America’s wars in this century now total 194,254 of the 744,313 homeless people in this nation. The Iraq War has already generated 1,500 homeless veterans and many experts believe this is merely the tip of the wave. “We are going to have a tsunami of this eventually because the mental health toll from this war is enormous,” says VA official Daniel Tooth. Of course, these figures are only for those identified by the Veterans Administration and may not necessarily be the real total.

From the beginning of its assumption of power, the Bush administration cut funding for mental health components of the VA although initiating a war in Iraq was bound to impact the mental health of those fighting. Many experts are shocked that America already has 1,500 homeless Iraq War veterans. The Vietnam War ended and people forgot it had ever happened and few political leaders paid any attention to the psychological impact of fighting in the jungles of Vietnam upon soldiers. We are living with the consequences of failure to provide mental health care for Vietnam veterans. Conservatives who support continued fighting in Iraq never pay any attention to the tremendous emotional problems being encountered by those doing the fighting. The old adage of pay now or pay later is true. We must rapidly and dramatically expand funding for mental health facilities in the Veterans Administration.