All too often, especially in the Trump years, veterans and active military have been used as props and as pawns to achieve personal and political gain.
Trump demeaned Sen. John McCain’s heroism as a prisoner of war in Vietnam and later called those who made the ultimate sacrifice for their country, “losers and suckers” and repeatedly questioned the intelligence of those who serve.
Well before Joe Biden became President, he and First Lady Jill Biden were activists on behalf of the military, veterans and military families. As Second Lady, Jill Biden teamed with then-First Lady Michelle Obama to create Joining Forces – the White House initiative to support veteran and military families, caregivers, and survivors – to solve many of the problems that military families and veterans face.
I often have problems each Veterans Day and Memorial Day because these events shroud the horrors of war in glory and flag-waving jingoism – a kind of bait-and-switch necessary because otherwise no one would answer the call to duty.
And I have often warned about the difference between a convenient war and a justified one: lying the nation into war as George W. Bush did to invade Iraq for glory and oil and Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon did during Vietnam; using war for political gain, as Reagan did in invading Grenada, or how Trump actually maneuvered to use the military to keep power, even frightening General Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs, to caution the chain of command about deploying nuclear weapons.
All too often, the Commander in Chief just hangs in because it is politically inconvenient to leave, as in Afghanistan, where despite broad support for ending the unending war, the inevitable messiness wounded Biden’s presidency.
And then there are the wars being used by callous business interests to make their fortune, like World War I.
But then, there is a justified war like World War II, and no question that the nation must have a strong defense and be vigilant.
Yes, too often soldiers are props in a photo op or pawns in some political chess game, and the words used to honor them are hollow. The idea of preserving democracy at home and abroad is dangled and the flag waved.
War, after all, is a rallying cry and anyone who questions is attacked as being unpatriotic. And the millions who have served this country to protect our democracy have to feel cheated to see democracy hanging by a thread.
This Veterans Day, Biden’s Proclamation is genuine and speaks to this administration’s commitment to veterans and families, backed by real action.
“For generations, millions of Americans have answered the call to serve — taking the sacred oath to defend and preserve our Nation’s ideals of liberty and democracy. These patriots represent the best of us. On Veterans Day, we honor their service, dedication, and valor and are forever grateful for their sacrifice,” he states.
“Our Nation has only one truly sacred obligation: to properly prepare and equip our service members when we send them into harm’s way and to care for them and their families when they return home. For our 19 million veterans, that means ensuring that they have access to the support and resources for a future of security, opportunity, and dignity. This is even more important as we continue to recover from the global COVID-19 pandemic.”
He has brought a whole-of-government approach to veterans, making veterans fundamental to major policy, from the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act just passed that will create millions of good jobs for veterans and grow opportunities for veteran-owned businesses and The Build Back Better framework which prioritizes improvements to VA health care, to addressing the adverse health effects of service-related exposures, the White House Gender Policy Council releasing the first-ever United States Strategy for Gender Equity and Equality that considered the special needs and contributions of women service members and veterans.
Notably, the Department of Veterans Affairs is also working to get every eligible veteran the information and opportunity they need to register and vote, “protecting their voice in the democracy they fought to preserve.”
In August, the Department of Veterans Affairs announced it will begin processing disability claims for respiratory conditions connected to exposure during military service in Southwest Asia and other areas. The Biden Administration also added three conditions to the list of those associated with exposure to Agent Orange and will be taking additional action to address potential adverse health effects associated with military environmental exposures.
But probably the most critical aspect of Biden’s attention to veterans is addressing the psychological effects of their service that has manifested in high rates of suicide and homelessness.
“So many of our veterans carry the scars from their service — both visible and invisible — and it is our Nation’s responsibility to help them heal. Too many veterans and service members have considered suicide or taken their own lives, and addressing this tragedy is a national responsibility,” he stated. The Biden administration released a new comprehensive, cross-sector public health strategy to reduce military and veteran suicide.
Through Joining Forces, the Administration is addressing employment and entrepreneurship, military and veteran child education, and health and well-being for veteran families. In September, Joining Forces and the National Security Council released a report outlining the first round of Administration-wide commitments and proposals that support veteran and military families, caregivers, and survivors.
“Fulfilling our Nation’s promise to our veterans and military families, caregivers, and survivors is not only a moral imperative — it is crucial to our national security and to maintaining the finest military the world has ever known. We are a Nation that keeps our promises. That is why my Administration is dedicated to a whole-of-government approach in responding to the needs of our veterans and their families, caregivers, and survivors,” Biden stated.
“On Veterans Day, we honor our Nation’s veterans, who have given so much to protect our freedoms and the freedom of others around the globe. They represent the highest ideals of our country. While we can never fully repay the debt we owe these heroes, we will honor their service and provide them the care and support they deserve. We also salute and show gratitude for all who ensure our Armed Forces remain strong, united, and unmatched…I encourage all Americans to recognize the valor, courage, and sacrifice of our veterans through appropriate ceremonies and private prayers.”