Sunday, November 13, 2011

Helluva Gift

Every month, The Washington Post prints pictures of America's war dead. I am always staggered by the two, full pages of pictures. Each young face represents a child whose parents joyfully anticipated his birth and carefully chose his or her name. This child was a beloved family member and, no doubt, someone's BFF. We will never know if one might have become a brilliant scientist who discovered a cure for some dread disease.

When a young person dies it is so unnatural and unexpected. A child is not supposed to die before his or her parents do. As one mother said in another Post article, she never expected to see her baby's name on a headstone. That did it -- I lost it. How do soldiers' parents and friends cope with such a huge loss!

No words, medals or certificates can provide comfort for such a loss. The rawness of losing a child in such a violent way -- well, I don't have words to describe it.

Deaths caused by warfare have happened for centuries; eons, really. How have we not concluded that this is wrong?

Modern warfare is deadlier and less selective than ancient methods of killing one's enemies. A sword, arrows and spears could not compete with guns, bombs, land mines, poison gas and nuclear weapons. Still, countries find reasons to build and maintain arsenals of ever more deadly weaponry. Land mines left over from long finished wars kill and maim thousands of civilians in several countries every year. Many of them were made in the good ole U.S. of A.

Is the industrial-military-complex too big to fail? Just think if some of the billions of dollars and thousands of man-hours spent developing new weaponry were redirected to medical research, caring for those who cannot care for themselves and improving the miserable standards of living for people around the world. Peace might just happen!

Thousands of refugees from manmade and natural disasters are still caught in an unending cycle of loss and lack of real recovery perpetuated by half-measures of aid. But then, some of those refugees may actually be better off than "America's invisible poor."

Homelessness and hunger are not exclusive to dirty, bearded men who hang out on heating grates. Too many of those dirty, bearded men are veterans who, for whatever reasons, were unable to assimilate back into society. Others could not find employment which further broke their spirits after sacrificing so much for their homeland. Many did not agree with U.S. military stands, but served anyway because it was the right thing to do. Each and every one of us owes a significant debt to our military -- past and present.

It's all fine and good thanking service members for their service. What they need is not a handshake but a hand-up into a job that will help restore their self-reliance and facilitate a more normal life out of the military. It can be a huge adjustment, but with understanding and patience from employers and co-workers, it would be one helluva great home-coming gift!

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