05 July 2007

The Warrior Class and Taking Care of Each Other

I was listening to Dennis Miller’s radio show this past weekend – not sure on the date of the podcast, and I think it was a “best of” show – and as radio talk shows do often, he had an impromptu segment regarding a veteran of the current Iraq war. This veteran has been suffering from injuries and illnesses since his time in Iraq, but has been given the run-around by the Veterans Administration hospitals and clinics.

As the segment went along, there were calls from folks wanting to know where they could call specifically to get this guy help, to somehow force the VA to deal with this guy. Mr. Miller made some interesting statements about how this guy needed help and that he would do what he could to get him help. Mr. Miller coupled these statements with his belief that America needs to look after its “warrior class”. Both are laudable goals, but after further thought, putting forth all efforts to help this one veteran treats the symptom, and there’s a deeper, underlying cause that Mr. Miller hints at when he calls for taking care of our “warrior class”.

To truly take care of our warrior class, there must be a certain amount of reverence towards the military and the everyday soldier who protects the nation and fights its wars. That is not to say that military members should be set above the rest of society, but rather that there should be a conscious recognition that those who serve in the military, as well as police and fire forces, do so to protect us from the more destructive, unforeseen things in life.

But how might we take care of the “warrior class” in tangible ways? First, I think that joining the military should be viewed and advocated as a desirable choice for all able-bodied Americans. While some would push the benefits of college money and work experience, I (given my own personal experience) would stress personal growth and developing senses of responsibility and teamwork as reasons to join. These things, which don’t fit as well as dollar numbers for college into commercials, are the things that prove long lasting. Granted, the college money is nice – I used it – but it is after all just money.

The same goes with how to take care of soldiers after their service is complete. In his radio show, Mr. Miller advocated that every person who serves in combat should not pay income tax for the rest of his or her life. I think that’s pandering to military members. Serving in the military should not exempt someone from their civic duty, to include paying taxes. But for those who have served, there should be, there must be, care given for the scars of combat which are lasting.

This cannot, I believe, be done with government programs or dollars thrown indiscriminately at the VA. It has to come down to the community level, to the level of the family and the friends, who really have to do the long, tough job. Supporting them, I think, is the key. Building close ties at home, engendering a sense of shared responsibility between the soldier who fights abroad and those who take care of the home front, before, during and after the fight, is key.

And that’s a tough thing to accomplish…and I have no real answer on how to go about accomplishing it. The close ties I’m thinking of can’t just be spoken into being, they can’t just be written and therefore take shape.

Maybe it’s as simple as taking time to care for those who look out for us, no matter who they are. In turn we can look out for those around us, and accept their care when offered. And again, I’m not talking about pandering or becoming nanny-like. More a compassionate, respectful and responsible give and take to lift us all up.

But there I go again getting all utopian. I’m sure we’ll never get there, but it’s important to have a vision.

1 comment:

Melissa said...

Perhaps not 100% on topic, but a good way to take care of the military and to retain quality members would be to allow selective "sabbaticals" for up to a year at milestones in the military career - say at the 10, 15, and 20 year mark. I'm pretty sure that if I had the opportunity to take a sabbatical I would have stayed in the military longer. Throwing money at the military members is nice for a little bit but in the long term doesn't help.