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A national shame

Bob Herbert

Last year saw the release of a book by former New York Times columnist Bob Herbert called Losing Our Way: An Intimate Portrait of a Troubled America. Among the people Herbert writes about is Lt. Dan Berschinski, an infantry platoon leader in Afganistan. Lt. Berschinski was blasted by an Improvised Explosive Device (IED), and Herbert writes, "The explosion had blown Dan's right leg off just below the hip, severed his left leg above the knee, shattered his left arm, broken his jaw and inflicted terrible pelvic damage."

Herbert quotes Lt. Berschinski's father, Bob, as saying, "They had a device called a wound VAC, which is essentially a vacuum that fits over a wound ... [W]hat it does is cause the wound to seep and clean itself out. It's a counter-infection and gangrene thing." The lieutenant's mother, Susan, pointed out, "He had five of those."

His father continued, "He had a tube coming out of his chest because one of his lungs was filled with fluid. He had a drainage tube. I counted 16 tubes coming out of our kid."

Herbert quotes from an op-ed piece the lieutenant wrote: "Generals and politicians line up to shake the hand of wounded soldiers like me. My greatest hope is that while they're shaking hands and thanking me for my service, they pause to reflect on the commitment owed to America's veterans. Otherwise the handshakes and thanks ring hollow."

And hollowness seems to be the order of the day. Herbert writes: "The problems associated with caring for America's wounded service men and women—and paying for that care—are mind-bogglingly immense, and the nation has been almost terminally reluctant to face that daunting challenge head-on." He puts the blame squarely on the people we elect to public office: "Very few public officials have even considered the enormity of the obligation."

Remember this the next time you read politicians' self-serving press releases or see them on TV patting themselves on the back. Take the time to call them, or at least write a letter, asking them exactly what they're doing to address this disgrace.

One more thing about Herbert's book. The cover shows the Statue of Liberty. She has her back turned toward us.


( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
Jan. 3rd, 2015 11:22 pm (UTC)
"Support our troops" - until it comes to actually funding the aftercare for those most in need.
Jan. 4th, 2015 12:27 am (UTC)
Here's what Herbert wrote about that:

The Harvard researcher Linda Bilmes told a congressional hearing in mid-2011 that the number of veterans who will be entitled to lifetime medical care and disability compensation resulting from their service in Afghanistan or Iraq (or both) was approaching 50 percent of all service members returning from those countries [...]

Bilmes told the committee, "The magnitude of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans' costs is grossly understated in government projections [...] The peak funding years for conflicts are typically so far into the future that they are not included in official estimates. It is a sobering fact that the peak year for paying veterans' disability compensation to World War I veterans was 1969—more than 50 years after the armistice. The largest expenditures for World War II veterans came in 1982. Payments to Vietnam and the first Gulf War veterans are still climbing."
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )

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