OUR VIEW: The real price of freedom
If you want to really understand the price of freedom and the debt the nation owes its former and active warriors, go to an area Veterans Administration hospital.
Not to visit the sick or those who are healing — though that would certainly not be a bad idea either — but just find a good seat on the main floor where the doctors and physician assistants meet patients. Because you will begin to see — though never completely understand — the true outlay, the genuine human expenditure our wars inflict on our fellow Americans.
The patients — those who seek assistance from the VA for a wide range of medical issues — are of all colors and creeds; some are young and some are old and some are middle aged. There are males and females. They come from every corner of Idaho and Oregon and the nation.
And many, far, far too many, grapple with life-altering injuries and wounds. Many of those wounds are visible, many more are not and fester inside the psyche of our warriors.
They come each day to take advantage of the one visible debt-repayment program this nation offers its veterans.
Yet if actual, physical evidence does not suit you, perhaps numbers can help. Now, more than 600,000 veterans of the global War on Terror boast some kind of officially sanctioned disability. Another 2 million American children are forced to cope — sometimes half a dozen times — with watching their parent leave for a combat zone.
For the most part, the rest of us, those who did not sign a commitment to stand on a wall on a distant shore, have it pretty easy. From 2001 to now, a lot of us were able to go to our son’s, or daughter’s or grandchild’s little league game or to a local prep football game and, essentially, live a life devoid of the kind of sacrifice our warriors endured silently.
We could slap a bumper sticker on the family truckster supporting our troops, make wide-sweeping proclamations about patriotism and watch 30-second news clips — when, that is, the war was even shown on TV — and then settle in for a quiet night of “American Idol” or “CSI: Miami.” The war, it seemed, was a distant thing, like the serious illness of an old, but not really close, friend.
If at some point, someone somewhere, felt just the slightest tingle of regret about the situation that was probably good news. It showed that even though we back home enjoyed the fruits of our hard-won freedom at least we recognized the sacrifice of others in faraway places.
A visit to a VA hospital to see the final bill our fellow warrior citizens must pay should be a required element to citizenship in America. That it is not, and probably never will be, says a whole lot more about where we are as a nation than it does about the facility of such an appointment.
So if you really want to know what such events as Tarawa, the Pusan Perimeter, Khe Sanh and Sadr City did to our fellow citizens then visit a VA hospital someday. Just sit down and watch. And, perhaps, reflect on just how lucky the rest of us are and how fortunate we remain to be represented by such fine men and women in our armed services.