I have been away from the blogs for quite a while. Summer has been very busy for me. A lot of travel and family business to take care of, a move from Northern Wisconsin back to St. Paul, MN and dealing with the tragedy that has struck some great long time cherished friends.
One of the projects that I was involved with was The Longest Walk II. This is a commemorative walk from San Francisco to Washington DC of the original walk that took place in 1978. The purpose of the walk was to bring forth, in a positive way, concerns about pollution of Mother Earth, the idea that all life is Sacred, Peace and Justice, the degeneration of the people from sickness, the failure of the government to adhere to treaties and to keep Sacred sites Sacred.
Read all about the Longest Walk II, see the pictures and read the stories at this site:
One of the purposes of the walk was to assemble a Manifesto and deliver this document to Congress. The ideas set forth in the Manifesto were from the actual lives of people across the United States as we walked.
As a Veteran, my duty was to prepare a piece to address the growing concern over benefits and benefit changes to soldiers returning home from the Afghanistan and Iraq theaters of war.
The entire Manifesto is also available to read at the above listed site. Here is the article I presented to Congress on behalf of my Veteran Bothers and Sisters:
Manifesto For Change
“All Life Is Sacred”
THE COST OF WAR: Message from a Veteran
By Joe Spado, member of Veterans For Peace, Vietnam Veterans Against the War and The American Patriot Institute.
As we crossed the United States, we on The Longest Walk II heard many concerns from a wide variety of citizens. Most of these concerns dealt with environmental problems like poisons or cancer causing substances in the drinking water, or pollution of water supply reservoirs and air quality. Problems related to health issues and access to adequate healthcare. Problems with the cost of food, gasoline and drugs. Problems dealing with discrimination based on skin color or spoken language for jobs and/or housing opportunities. Problems with the treatment of areas and sites that are considered Culturally Sacred, or actual burial sites of family members and ancestors of the Native Indigenous people of America.
These matters are of extreme importance to the individuals that are exposed, but affect all people in one way or another. Another problem that needs to be addressed is the treatment and access to benefits for Veterans who served in the armed forces of the United States. The Veterans from wars of the past, World War II, Korea and Vietnam and returning Veterans from the current war activity in Afghanistan and Iraq.
As I spoke with Veterans I heard their accounts of rejection for benefits and the long waiting period even the denial takes. One Veteran told me he was refused health care as his home was being foreclosed upon.
It is hard to get benefits. The application process is flawed and inaccessible to many. The bureaucracy and long waiting periods, rules and regulations make it hard for Veterans to make and keep appointments or persevere in their attempt to see their claims through to a fair conclusion.
In most cases, the burden of proof lies on the shoulders of the Veterans to prove they were even in a battle zone or that they were injured while on active duty. Laws have been changed and benefits have been reduced or taken away from Veterans.
When I speak of benefits, I am talking about health care as a priority, but also benefits relating to job seeking and job keeping skills, the teaching of real life technical and liberal education and readjustment counseling after a Veteran has served in a combat zone or in any theater where combat and the violence and destruction that goes along with it are present. I speak of housing benefits, educational benefits, mental health treatment benefits and other benefits that were implemented to help the Veteran get back to a normal life after serving in the military.
I speak of legal help and relief from creditors. Many Veterans were taken from their everyday routine and put into repeated tours of duty, disrupting their income. They return to face bankruptcy or credit problems so severe there is no escape.
Obviously, one solution is to sign onto law the needed bills to rectify these problems for Veterans. This would cost money to the taxpayers. In an attempt to keep taxation low, benefits were cut and measures taken to reduce the cost of care for any Veteran. But spending less on war and war related armament and activities would offset the additional cost that would be needed to take proper care of our Veterans.
Another solution is to work harder and create laws that allow for peace and peaceful settlements of disputes with other countries and adopt this as a main ideal in our framework of foreign policy.
As a member of Veterans For Peace and Vietnam Veterans Against the War, and having fought as a combat infantry soldier in Vietnam, I speak from the first hand experience of being in war and seeing it up close. Peoples’ lives are shattered, both the lives of the soldiers on both “sides”, and the lives of their close friends and family members. The lives of the civilians caught up as war has its collateral damage and their close friends and family members.
The death and destruction to people and property. The after effects of wounds received and inflicted, both physical and emotional wounds. The obvious and blatant war profiteering by the arms companies and others that partake in such crime. The continuing effects of weapons and arms left behind like unexploded bombs and depleted uranium armaments. The destruction of lives from the behavior that results from such trauma, like drug addiction and alcoholism, spousal brutality, anxiety, anger, depression and panic attacks.
Society decides and allows war, through the officials they elect. It is societies burden then, to pay for it before it starts, while it is happening and when the conflict is over. The cost of war isn’t the billions that the President asks for from the legislature to fight the war. It is ongoing as the wounds of war to the people of the world never cease, even years after the conflict.
A first shot should never be fired by our Nation. We should stand ready to defend, but not be the reason for war. Standing as the worlds strongest Nation has a responsibility to the rest of the world, and that is to help promote peace at all costs.
The cost of war is staggering in dollar value, but the cost to humanity is even more as lives lost and the lost lives of the survivors can’t be counted with dollars. The best and easiest investment is in real peace through diplomacy and negotiations. The best and easiest solution to the problem of providing for our Veterans is peace.