This week, Iraq has been on my mind quite a bit. What was once Operation IRAQI FREEDOM became Operation NEW DAWN, which officially ends on on the 31st of December. I hope Iraq, with its controversy and its bloodletting, is not doomed to suffer the same fate as Vietnam within American culture. Tom Ricks, over at The Best Defense, has shown concern over the past year about the rate of decline in the number of books written on Iraq being picked up by publishing houses. As divisive as Iraq has been, and felt, it is not nearly as divisive as Vietnam, which gives me solace. But I fear that in our collective haste to move past Iraq, and focus on domestic issues, the needs of veterans will fall by the wayside.
The remarkable transformation of the VA; recognition of TBI as an actual injury; the post 9/11 GI Bill; these are all good things that have happened as a result of national awareness of veteran issues. Awareness that would have never happened if Iraq wasn’t going on at the time. This why organizations like R4V are so important. Wars end; the experience of of the veteran never ends. As we move into a post-Iraq/Afghanistan world, someone will have to remember the vets. I hope that someone is you.
Matt, thank you for your service. I think you nailed it when you said “the experience of the veteran never ends.” The number of veterans returning from war with the “signature wounds” of Iraq and Afghanistan (PTSD & TBI) are heartbreaking, and these scars can last a lifetime.
The VA and support organizations like Team R4V are doing great work. We must provide ample support for those returning from war not only because they have selflessly protected others, but because, as George Washington said, our great nation depends on it.
“The willingness with which our young people are likely to serve in any war, no matter how justified, shall be directly proportional to how they perceive the veterans of earlier wars were treated and appreciated by their nation.” -George Washington