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I remember reading George C. Herring’s book “America’s Longest War” when I was studying history as an undergrad and couldn’t wrap my head around how the conflict in Vietnam could have gone on as long as it did. I naively assured myself that despite how horrific the toll of that war was, at least we had learned from our mistakes and would never let that happen again. I couldn’t have been more wrong.
Today, Oct. 7, marks the 15th anniversary of combat operations in Afghanistan, which is now our longest war to date, and other than a select few who bear the brunt of this burden, most people will see #WorldSmileDay trending on Twitter today and not think twice about this somber and embarrassing anniversary. Nothing could be more insulting to the troops currently serving.
I used to empathize with the public in previous years for not paying attention to the war in Afghanistan because there were so many other things going on: the war in Iraq, the worst recession since the Great Depression, threats of climate change, and myriad other things that dominate headlines. Those days are gone, however, and the empathy has run out. It’s now time to quantify what another year in combat means to the brave women and men still serving in Afghanistan and stop neglecting our New Greatest Generation of warfighters.
So what is another year in combat? Well, it depends on who you ask. If you ask the spouse of someone serving, it’s yet another increase in your chances of developing a mental-health problem — a topic largely ignored. If you are the child of someone serving, it’s celebrating another birthday or holiday worrying about your mom or dad overseas. And if you were one of the brave citizens who decided to make the military a career after the Sept. 11 attacks, you are one of the few people who have served on an unprecedented number of deployments, a toll that no other generation of warfighters has ever known.
This burden falls cruelly on a disproportionate number of citizens —- something we’ve never asked such small number of people to endure. And how do we repay these service members and their families? By neglecting them and the issues that affect them. We do live in a post-9/11 world, though, as the years pass, that seems to hold less weight. Some would argue that this is the price we pay for keeping our country safe. However, the literal “price” paid is something that needs to be addressed immediately.
Why are we spending $43 million dollars on a gas station or $335 million on an electric plant in Afghanistan that nobody is using when the brave women who return from Afghanistan don’t have the quality care they deserve? How did a war that was originally sold to us for a cost of “something under $50 billion” turn into a $6 trillion fiasco? Is this the best way to spend trillions of dollars, especially when just $30 billion could be used to solve the world’s food crisis? I’d like to have that discussion, but it’s nearly impossible when an apathetic attitude toward this war permeates our national dialogue. If it’s not about Trump and Clinton’s latest scandal, then no one is interested.
I could go on for ages about how disappointed I am in our country’s leaders for allowing this to happen, and still haven’t even discussed the mental health problems emerging from modern drone warfare, the moral injuries caused by having friends deploy without you, the objective risks of blowback from our policies in the region, or the psychological toll our actions in Afghanistan must take on the innocent civilians there, but am afraid that these complaints will fall on deaf ears.
We went into Afghanistan as a direct response for the attacks on 9/11, but considering far too many Americans have forgotten the event we said we never would, it’s all too likely that they will continue to forget about the war it started.
I, on the other hand, will continue to serve my fellow veterans when they return home and will do whatever I can to shed light on the individual acts of courage they continue to display for a country that has, for the most part, forgotten about them.
A big stereotype surrounding U.S. service members and veterans is that they are defined only by their military service, from buying "Dysfunctional Veteran" t-shirts to playing hard-boiled, high-octane first-person shooters like Battlefield and Call of Duty (we honestly have no idea where anyone could get that impression).
But the folks at OSD (formerly called Operation Supply Drop), a non-profit veteran service organization that aims to help troops and vets connect with each other through free video games, service programs and other activities, recently found that most of the gamers they've served actually prefer less military-centric fare like sports games and fantasy RPGs.
A new documentary series about Clint Lorance pits the infantry officer convicted of murder against his former soldiers
The fog of war, just kills, and war crimes are the focus of a new documentary series coming to STARZ. Titled Leavenworth, the six-part series profiles 1st Lt. Clint Lorance, the Army infantry officer who was convicted on murder charges for ordering his soldiers to fire on three unarmed Afghan men on a motorcycle, killing two and wounding the third, while deployed to the Zhari district in Kandahar province, on July 2, 2012.
A Vietnam vet found covered in ant bites is forcing the Atlanta VA to finally reckon with years of dangerous practices
Dawn Brys got an early taste of the crisis unfolding at the largest Veterans Affairs hospital in the Southeast.
The Air Force vet said she went to the Atlanta VA Medical Center in Decatur last year for surgery on a broken foot. But the doctor called it off because the surgical instruments hadn't been properly sterilized.
"The tools had condensation on them," recalled Brys, a 50-year-old Marietta resident. The doctor rescheduled it for the next day.
Now the 400-plus-bed hospital on Clairmont Road that serves about 120,000 military veterans is in a state of emergency. It suspended routine surgeries in late September after a string of incidents that exposed mismanagement and dangerous practices. It hopes to resume normal operations by early November as it struggles to retrain staff and hire new nurses.
The partial shutdown came about two weeks after Joel Marrable, a cancer patient in the same VA complex, was found covered with more than 100 ant bites by his daughter. Also in September, the hospital's canteen was temporarily closed for a pest investigation.
The mounting problems triggered a leadership shakeup Sept. 17, when regional director Leslie Wiggins was put on administrative leave. Dr. Arjay K. Dhawan, the regional medical director, was moved to administrative duties pending an investigation. Seven staff members were reassigned to non-patient care.
The only question for some military veterans and staff is why the VA waited so long. They say problems existed for years under Wiggins' leadership, but little was done.
The former Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs thinks that the VA needs to start researching medical marijuana. Not in a bit. Not soon. Right goddamn now.
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Donald Trump's withholding of $391 million in military aid to Ukraine was linked to his request that the Ukrainians look into a claim — debunked as a conspiracy theory — about the 2016 U.S. election, a senior presidential aide said on Thursday, the first time the White House acknowledged such a connection.
Trump and administration officials had denied for weeks that they had demanded a "quid pro quo" - a Latin phrase meaning a favor for a favor - for delivering the U.S. aid, a key part of a controversy that has triggered an impeachment inquiry in the House of Representatives against the Republican president.
But Mick Mulvaney, acting White House chief of staff, acknowledged in a briefing with reporters that the U.S. aid — already approved by Congress — was held up partly over Trump's concerns about a Democratic National Committee (DNC) computer server alleged to be in Ukraine.
"I have news for everybody: Get over it. There is going to be political influence in foreign policy," Mulvaney said.