Soldiers getting the shaft

I’ll admit it. I don’t own an American flag lapel pin, and the only flag I’ve flown from my house is the Gadsden flag – the yellow one with the rattlesnake and the “Don’t Tread On Me” slogan. I ordered it the day the PATRIOT Act passed.

But that doesn’t mean I don’t support the troops.

I am incredibly grateful to each American soldier who has served his or her country with honor. I genuinely appreciate and respect the difficult work you do, even when I disagree vehemently with your mission.

You have helped to give me an incredible gift – the freedom to speak my mind.

If you’re like me, when you give someone a gift, you hope that they’ll use it. So, to mark Veterans’ Day 2003, I would like to exercise my right to free speech to publicize what is happening to some of these brave men and women after they return from fighting half a world away in the hot dust of Iraq and Afghanistan.

In a story dated Oct. 17, United Press International reported that: “One month after President Bush greeted soldiers at Fort Stewart (Ga.)…as heroes on their return from Iraq, approximately 600 sick or injured members of the Army Reserves and National Guard are warehoused in rows of spare, steamy and dark cement barracks in a sandy field, waiting for doctors to treat their wounds or illnesses.”

Are you kidding me? As we debate the finer points of what is the meaning of “imminent threat” as relates to his justification for war, President Bush sits idly by while those he sent so dubiously into harm’s way languish in prisoner-of-war conditions?

Surely that can’t be true. Maybe the President just doesn’t know about it. Right?

After all, just a week before that UPI story was printed, Bush spoke to a group of Reserve and National Guard troops, lauding them as, “Citizen-soldiers (who) are serving in every front on the war on terror…(who are) making your state and your country proud.”

Meanwhile, UPI reported that their colleagues, wounded in war, waited up to six hours a day for a doctor’s appointment and, some, for “weeks or months without getting a diagnosis or proper treatment.”

First Sgt. Gerry Mosley, a 48-year-old Army Reservist, has experienced a variety of symptoms since returning from Iraq, including lung problems, vertigo and migraines.

After 30 years in the Reserves, Mosley thought the Army would take care of his injuries, which he believes stem from the anthrax vaccine he was given.

When he left for the Middle East, Mosley said he could run two miles in 17 minutes and had never experienced depression. Now, ill and disillusioned, Mosley has found himself gazing at shotguns, thinking about suicide.

He told UPI that he received a notice from his base that shows no doctor’s appointments would be available from Oct. 14 to Nov. 11.

Happy Veterans’ Day, Sgt. Mosley.

The Army Times reported Nov. 3 that the Department of Defense plans to cut the number of commissaries and schools it operates for soldiers’ families when they live on military bases. That’s no good.

“The last thing soldiers, sailors and airmen want,” one post commander said, “is to be concerned about the education of their children while they are fighting.”

That’s not all Pentagon budget-cutters have in mind.

“The two initiatives,” the Army Times continued, “are the latest in a string of actions by the Bush administration to cut or hold down growth in pay and benefits, including basic pay, combat pay, health-care benefits and the death gratuity paid to survivors of troop who die on active duty.”

So that’s where the savings come from to pay for Bush’s dividend tax cut.

For Bush, the slogan “support the troops” is great when you can use it to shout down liberals or slip improperly postmarked absentee ballots into Florida or make a stuffed-pants photo-op on the deck of an aircraft carrier. But when it comes down to, you know, actually doing anything meaningful for the men and women who’re doing the heavy lifting in Operation Re-election 2004, he’s busy doing what he’s always doing –