This NPR story about the thousands of “general discharges” handed out to veterans in recent years irked me this morning. These discharges protect the Military from the godawful medical costs of tending for the soldiers who fought our “War on Terror” while saddling them with a stain that prevents many from getting decent work after they leave the military.
I have little use for cheap patriotism which is symbolized by politicians who always can be found wearing American flag lapel pins. Its sort of like holding out a crucifix to keep vampires at bay. The recent tweet by President Elect Trump saying we ought to jail and strip the citizenship from flag burners is a good example of this. He could have been one of the radical Republicans who wanted to execute and jail the leaders of the Confederacy. This is the same guy who went skiing after he got a medical deferment from the draft during the Vietnam War. He may not have been paying attention when he vowed to replace Antonin Scalia with a like minded jurist because Scalia was a strong advocate for free speech even to the extent of flag burning.
A few years ago I was infuriated by a billboard on I-35 just north of the Twin Cities that showed black hands on the Constitution and lamenting its destruction. It was obvious who the patriots buying the sign considered a threat. Today those hands would be tiny white hands.
I discovered on my recent trip to Topeka a wealth of ties between my Grandfather, George Robb, and the American Legion which ballooned after World War 1. He was an officer, made speeches and attended a great many of its conventions. One speech, which I have yet to fully read covered a bonus being considered for veterans of the Great War. I also have a dozen letters to and from the War Department concerning his war related disability. At first he was rated as 10 percent disabled but over time he is informed that his rating has been pushed up. The last I remember he was considered to be about 23% disabled.
The Congresses after World War II filled up with veterans many of whom, like my Dad, took advantage of the GI Bill. After the Korean War they expanded deferments for things like college educations which became a handy four-year escape for potential draftees when the draft was reinstated for the Vietnam War. Other draft evaders like George W Bush joined the National Guard which was generally not deployed to war zones. Then there were the Trumps, well-to-do kids whose doctors told the military they were unfit physically to serve the nation in combat even when like Trump they had no difficulty skiing. Trump’s calling John McCain a loser for letting himself be captured has almost no equal for rhetorical infamy in the American record. I hope he has a lapel pin on his suits to cover up the stain.
Meanwhile the 20,000 vets discharged in recent years and left hanging without educational help and with a stain on their resumes and depression and addiction issues are helping save the military from paying out a great expense. No bonus for them. One of the young veterans in my church has had seven of his buddies commit suicide after coming back from their wars.
What have the Business oriented republican Congressmen given our troops? Easy access to pay day loans and the destruction of their credit.
It would take a pretty damned big American flag on a lapel to cover up this sort of ingratitude. We’ll be raising it over the White House come January.