Memorial Day: Veterans Affairs And The Authoritative Minds Among Us

There’s little doubt that if you are friends with conservatives on Facebook (and probably even some liberals unfortunately), you’ve seen photos like this one in your feed:

Memorial day bbq

No, Memorial Day is not just about firing up the grill, but its what we do and what we support as a nation, every single day, that is more important than what people stop to think about (and helpfully remind others to think about) on just one day out of the year. Because our priorities as a nation have more impact on current veterans and potential future veterans than platitudes uttered on the last Monday in May. We don’t need the authoritative minds among us to tell us how we should feel, or what we should say, or how we should act. I don’t need to be told what I need to remember on Monday while I’m cooking up my hotdogs and hamburgers, because I’m already quite aware, thank you very much. Nobody in this country is an authority on how we should be treating our veterans, because it’s our collective responsibility as a nation.

If you are going to fix big complex institutions that fail, you can’t make them a soap opera about the president of the moment, whoever that president is. This [Department of Veterans Affairs “VA”] is an institution that was doing a pretty good job taking care of the World War Two generation of veterans, it was institutionally ready to deal with the kinds of problems they faced. And then it [VA] faced in influx of people who had suffered the traumas of recent and much more lethal combat in new kinds of battlefields, and it’s failing to deal with that. And that’s not a story about one president, or one VA Administrator, it is a story about a failure of institutions to adapt to new times. – David Frum (former speechwriter for President George W. Bush)

World War Two and the wars that followed (before the so-called “War on Terror”) were certainly lethal (more so actually), but Frum’s point is that there is an increasing number of soldiers who would have died in past wars from what used to be lethal trauma, but they are surviving on the present-day battlefield because of modern medicine and technology. The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) was not ready to take on this influx. We funded these multi-trillion dollar wars, but not the lifetime of care afterwords.

I applaud anyone who takes on this cause from a local community perspective, but I don’t understand how we send our troops into war as a nation, but we cannot give them the care they deserve as a nation. I’m not taking anything away from local community efforts, but if we fund the institutions that put our troops into conflict, we should also fund the institutions that care for them when they come home.

So blame President Obama, blame the Secretary of Veterans Affairs, but you should probably blame those who are most culpable, and that would be congress, because they control the national purse. But we are culpable too, because we elected that congress, and many among us advocate paying less taxes, not more. And this is not a problem that will be fixed with less taxes.


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