Friday, February 8, 2008

Veterans and Work

This is a piece which focuses on the difficulty that some veterans are finding in getting jobs upon returning from duty in Afghanistan and Iraq.

The piece alludes to the idea that companies don't want to hire because of the "Wacko Vet myth", of course perpetuated by that evil liberal media.

There may be a some truth in that, or there may not, but it's always easy and safe to blame the liberal media, and the Liberal America hating, soldier hating people that oppose the war, instead of thinking about how to solve the problems.

The article also touches on what I believe are more correct theories of the difficulties:

"The report blamed the poor prospects partly on inadequate job networks and lack of mentors after extended periods in war."

I think this is a critical idea and thought. If you join the Army at age 18 or 19, and spend a few years there, usually you come out not knowing anyone, especially anyone who might be able to aid you in finding a job. Everyone knows that social networks are critical to not only finding jobs, but in learning how to properly look for a job.

I currently work in an industry which relies on semi-skilled and low skilled labor. It is getting tougher to find a job in this industry as the economy gets tighter and tighter. I read a lot of reports - this is happening in ALL sectors - manufacturing, construction, service. These entry level jobs are jobs which these veterans might be looking for to get their start upon returning from war.

Now, it is tough enough to find a job in an economy such as the present when all of your systems (health, psychological and spiritual) are in stasis.

But imagine that you are not sleeping at night because of horrific nightmares. Imagine that you are addicted to drugs and or alcohol to try to slow or stop those nightmares. Imagine that your family life is crashing down around you and people are leaving you (spouses and kids) because you haven't been able to adjust. Imagine that you are afflicted with PTSD, and it is a chore for you to even leave the house, much less get dressed up for an interview, and having to maintain and make it through the interview.

Imagine having all of those issues and having to present yourself as a hireable candidate.

Now, granted, some of these things happen to those who have not been to war as well, and those people need the help too. But that is not what I'm talking about here.

The article says that the government is going to have to fix it. I think the government can do some things, but I think it will take everyone to pull this one off - industry, education, government, churches and veterans organizations.

I don't believe these are unsolvable problems. One good idea has been talked about by Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (, and that is the idea of a New GI Bill:,com_/Itemid,66/option,content/task,view/id,2492/

As this article points out, the GI Bill simply: “reinvented America” after a half-decade of war.

It is not going to be easy, nor is it going to be cheap. We tried to do the war "on the cheap" and we see where that got us. We simply cannot do this "on the cheap"

Now, a lot will say that we "can't afford this" - it costs too much. But can we afford the results of what will happen if we DON'T do it?

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Give me your tired.......

This is a piece where Admiral Mullen says that US forces are "worn thin by operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, and unlikely to come home in large numbers anytime soon."

This is, quite frankly, the understatement of the century. It also should be disturbing and discouraging for every American. The Admiral goes on to say "The well is deep, but it is not infinite."

What does that even MEAN? Did anyone say, "Admiral, this is claptrap and nonsense that you are speaking. What does this really mean?" Or, "Admiral, is the "well" really that "deep"?" The Admiral can say nonsensical things like this because he knows that not that many people are paying attention, or thinking critically about the war.

What does it mean? It means that the thin slice of the population and their families and friends are going to continue to bear the brunt of this war for the forseeable future.

It means that we are going to continue to repeatedly send good men and women away. They'll still come back good men and women, but they'll keep coming back broken in mind, body and soul. And when they come back, we have to make the hard choices. Are we REALLY going to do what's necessary to take care of them, or are we going to try to do it the same way we did the war - "on the cheap".

It means that what we SAY is that we have to do the things to really help out the troops. What we MEAN is that, there is nothing we can do about this right now, we are going to keep troops fighting in Iraq, you signed up and volunteered for it (including all that small print about "stop loss"), so deal with it.

It means that people keep looking at the troops as an inexhaustable "resource", while mouthing the words that we have to "take care of them". When in reality, they are seen by some as little more than pieces on a grand chess board.

To dispute the Admiral's assertion that the "well is deep", you have to look at the whole picture. NOT just those on the ground right now, but those who've already been and are profoundly broken, and those who will go and be profoundly broken.

You have to focus on the PTSD. The physical and mental illness. The Suicides. The Homelessness. The addictions to drugs and alcohol. The inability to adjust to life back home.

You have to focus on the damage already done to the National Guard and Reserve and their ability to protect those of us at home.

Then, you start to focus on the overall financial picture. The well there is not at all "deep". They are asking for and getting astounding amounts of money (all of it borrowed) to fund these wars almost indefinitely, while at home they slash and burn social and educational programs. These programs are cut at home because we "can't afford them". Then, in the midst of that, they want to give "rebates" to 100 million Americans to stimulate economic growth.

I'm no Harvard educated economist, only a guy with an Associates Degree in Liberal Arts, but these numbers simply do not add up or jive.

But, I think the attitude of a lot of Americans who simply don't care to look at the big picture is best summed up by a comment on a Newsweek article on torture ( by some person from Illinois. This person says:

"Comment: CIA and U.S. military, you guys do what you have to do, to keep me safe and happy in Illinois."

No matter how much we spend (to the detriment of the poor and disadvantaged here). No matter how many soldiers have to die, or be mangled. No matter how many "foreigners, ragheads and terrorists" have to die. Just keep me safe and happy in Illinois. The truth is, that you don't yet know it, but you are not at all safe, and when you get the final bill, that you and your next generations are going to be paying in a lot of different ways, you are not going to be at all happy.

I don't want to sound hokey or corny, or engage in hyperbole, and I know it will sound like it, but I believe who we are as a people and a nation is now at stake. Our national collective "soul" if you will. We've been through this before with Vietnam, and it doesn't seem like we learned very much.

Hopefully we'll have to collective will and strength to get through it all again.