Sound Off: Budget should reflect gratitude

By David P. Michel

On Memorial Day, we open the gates of our hearts and allow those feelings to flow freely. They’re forceful feelings, and our hearts are filled with devotion for those who sacrificed the breath of life in the cause of freedom.

It is true nobility that stirred the hearts of those who have worn the uniforms of our nation’s armed forces, from its earliest times right up to the present day. That gallantry shines through with particular force in the lives of the ordinary young Americans who died for freedom ... most of them in the bloom of youth, but some in middle age.

Not quite so obvious among the dead are those who came home sick or wounded, only to die months or years later of causes related to war. Theirs too are noble lives. Theirs too are lives we remember this day.

As you honor our nation’s war-dead on this day, please honor that greatness of your own heart as well. Your dedication to those who served is one element in the alloy of the American Spirit – an alloy that can bear any weight and stand any stress.

And surely, there is great need for people to stand up with true American Spirit today. It is a time of war, with troops deployed on two fronts of active combat – one in Iraq, the other in Afghanistan. Our men and women face the threat of hostility in many other hotspots around the world, as well.

Opinions about the war in Iraq may vary, and that’s okay. America is the world’s beacon of democracy after all. Americans can think as they wish, say what they want and vote as they please. These are principles that make America great – ideals we veterans risked our lives to defend. But I’m pleased to see Americans united on one idea. They are committed to support the men and women of our armed forces, and that rightfully translates into support for our nations veterans.

President Teddy Roosevelt said a hundred years ago, “A man who is good enough to shed his blood for his country, is good enough to be given a square deal afterwards.”

Some of our nation’s elected leaders don’t see things this way. They don’t reflect the will of the American people when it comes to the men and women who fought our wars. We must remind them of Teddy Roosevelt’s commitment to those who risked life and limb for freedom. They’ll note that tens of thousands have come home from war, sick and otherwise disabled; tens of thousands not counted in press releases handed to news reporters. But many politicians would rather not study the numbers that closely. It would make it too difficult to stomach the veteran’s budget the White House has asked them to accept.

Disabled American Veterans has called this “One of the most tight-fisted, miserly budgets for veterans in recent memory.” And we’re not alone in speaking out so bluntly, as other service organizations have risen in a unified chorus. Our country’s leaders mock the honored dead if they don’t care for those who come home sick and wounded from military service.

If we asked our veterans to give only their best when we called them to arms, we must be prepared to give them only the best for the rest of their lives. Then, and  only then, will our nation have honored those whose flag-draped caskets are coming home even today from the fields of battle.

Oak Harbor resident David P. Michel is commander, Chapter 47, Disabled American Veterans


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