Johnny comes marching home

December 29, 2011

Posted By: By Jerry Gordon and Dr. Rich Swier

The United West – first to Recognize Florida’s Returning Heroes

President Obama officially declared an end to the War in Iraq on December 15, 2011. The last of our military left Iraq on December 30th after nearly ten years.
Historically America welcomes home its warriors with ticker tape parades honoring their service, sacrifices and victories. This happened after WWII and most recently after the first Gulf War. Two New York City councilmen, Republicans Vincent Ignizio and James Oddo, have called for a ticker-tape parade down the stretch of Broadway known as the “Canyon of Heroes”.
As both authors can personally attest that was not always the case. Both are Vietnam era veterans. During their military careers both witnessed a major reduction in forces after the end of the Vietnam War.  Vietnam veterans were treated like pariahs returning from war with many being put upon, called horrific names and accused of terrible crimes. The nation dismissed its wounded warriors during the Vietnam era. Many suffered from their injuries and still do. Both authors are dedicated to ensuring the treatment they received is not repeated.
The first occasion since the end of the Iraq War to recognize our returning military men and women in Florida will be held in Tallahassee on January 10, 2012. This is the opening day of the Florida legislature. Many groups will be in Tallahassee to petition their elected officials for redress of grievances or to support legislation benefitting the citizens of Florida. None of the groups save one The United West is there to recognize those who have fought and died to protect the freedoms and liberties enjoyed by every American. The event is “Saluting Our Military”.
Tom Trento, Director of The United West and organizer of “Saluting Our Military”, said, “As we enter a new year and the Florida legislature convenes, it is only fitting that all Floridians join together to honor the men and women who serve and sacrifice each day for us all. Not to recognize their service is a travesty.”
“Florida has experienced the largest deployment of its Reservists and National Guard personnel in history to Iraq and Afghanistan. U.S. Central Command, the joint command headquarters for the War in Iraq and Afghanistan, is located at MacDill AFB in Tampa. Florida is home to over 1.8 million active duty, Reserve, National Guard and veterans. On January 10, 2012 we will honor them all,” notes Trento.
The TUW program has attracted a number of speakers who will appear at the event being held in the House Chambers of the Old Capitol Building from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., January 10th. Among the honored speakers are two wounded warriors – SSG William Camillo, U.S. Army (Ret.) and SGT Joshua Cope, U.S. Army (Ret.).   They know personally the price of freedom paid by their comrades in arms.
Among the nationally recognized speakers at the TUW event in Tallahassee will be Lt. Gen. Gerald  Boykin U.S. Army  (Ret.), US Rep. and Lt. Col. U.S. Army (Ret.) Alan West, David Beamer, father of  9/11 Flight 93 passenger Todd Beamer and Ann Lindholm, wife of a US Army Ranger officer currently on deployment to Afghanistan.
The cost of freedom falls hardest on those who defend it.
The decade-long war against Islamic terrorism has cost America considerably in both blood and treasure. As the New Year begins, over 6,200 American service personnel were lost in mortal combat; 47,000 were wounded in action in both Iraq and Afghanistan.  The wounded have suffered grievously from extensive loss of extremities, head injuries and post-traumatic stress.  Further, their families have suffered deprivation of the love and concern from the fallen and wounded.  Front-line emergency medical and rapid evacuation coupled with advanced rehabilitation and orthopedic technologies have raised the survival rate from the Viet Nam era’s 86.5 % to over 90.2%.   Veterans Health Administration statistics circa March, 2011 reveal the extent of combat related treatment:
• Of the 2.3 million active-duty and reservists deployed in combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, 1.3 million have become eligible for VA care.   685,000 (62%) have sought care from the VA since 2002.
• 75,000 service members have been diagnosed with post traumatic stress syndrome during deployment or upon return.
• 35,000 service members have suffered traumatic brain injuries.
 In 2010, the Pentagon spent over $2 billion treating more than 400,000 patients from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates that $55 billion will be required for treatment over the period from 2011 to 2020, averaging more than $5.5 billion per year, an annual increase of 300 % over 2009.
When the bi-partisan Congressional Special Committee failed on November 21, 2011 to prioritize $1.2 trillion in federal budget reductions, that meant, beginning in Fiscal Year 2013, over $600 billion will automatically be sequestered from the Department of Defense budget.  If these cuts are not reversed, the US will proportionally have the smallest armed forces since 1940. Our armed forces will be hollowed out, imperiling our national security, unable to fend off the rising nuclear threats in the Middle East and globally.  Moreover, given this failure of will by our Congress to make constructive budget cuts, Veterans’ health care funding as noted in the CBO report could be jeopardized, putting at risk hundreds of thousands of veterans.
Some are saying this drawdown is dangerous to our troop morale and welfare. Col. Steve Strobridge, USAF (Ret.) writing for the Military Officers Association of America magazine states:
What is at stake? COLAs to all federal annuities, TRICARE, TRICARE For Life, major force and compensation cuts, commissaries, exchanges, family-support programs, and just about every military program you and your family use. If you survived the budget cuts of the 1970s, ’80s, or ’90s, you know how bad those were. But they were nothing compared to the budget pressures we’re all going to face over the next four or five years.
Historically, America draws down its forces, whether prudent or not, after a war’s end. In December 2011 alone the Army cut its active duty force by 10,000. That is the equivalent of one Army division.  These young warriors, who faced a vicious enemy in Iraq, upon returning home, face a bleak economy and lack of meaningful employment. On November 11, 2011, Bloomberg Business Week reported:
[I]t’s sobering to realize just how badly the job market has turned against the men and women who fought in Iraq and Afghanistan. Their rate of unemployment was 12.1 percent in October, vs. 9 percent for the U.S. overall. But that only scratches the surface of the employment picture for vets.
Dig deeper into the pages of U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics employment data and it becomes apparent that while the job market is slowly improving for most Americans, it’s moving in the opposite direction for Gulf War II vets (defined by the BLS as those on active duty since 2001). The youngest of veterans, aged 18 to 24, had a 30.4 percent jobless rate in October, way up from 18.4 percent a year earlier. Non-veterans of the same age improved, to 15.3 percent from 16.9 percent. For some groups, the numbers can look a good deal worse: for black veterans aged 18-24, the unemployment rate is a striking 48 percent. [Authors’ emphasis]
With young families these veterans are returning to their home towns with little hope of gainful employment. For many in the Florida National Guard and Reserves who were activated the picture is bleak as well. While the President and the First Lady are calling upon businesses to hire these veterans, the Administration and Congress are at the same time releasing them from active duty in large numbers.
Our wounded warriors, retired military, their families and children will be negatively impacted. Is this how we want to treat Johnny as he comes marching home?  By the way there are an increasing number of Jane’s who are marching home as well.
As George Washington said, “The willingness with which our young people are likely to serve in any war, no matter how justified, shall be directly proportional to how they perceive how the veterans of earlier wars were treated and appreciated by their nation.”
Time to treat and appreciate our military!

Jerry Gordon is a senior editor at the New English Review and a regular contributor to Red County. He served as an Army Intelligence officer during the Viet Nam era separating from active duty with the rank of Captain.
Dr. Rich Swier is a regional editor for the webzine Red County and the host of The Doctor Rich Show heard daily and on the internet at WWPR AM 1490 serving the combined Sarasota-Bradenton-Tampa, Florida listening area. Swier served in the US Army during the Viet Nam era; ultimately retiring as a Lt. Col.


The United West is working on issues of National Security geared to the 1.8 million military veterans who live in Florida.
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