"Support Our Troops." You see and hear that phrase all the time. You see it with the yellow-ribbon bumper stickers on the gas-guzzling SUVs driven by affluent mommies and daddies carting their Izod-clad children to lacrosse practice. Not that there's anything wrong with their kids dressing well and playing lacrosse, but what do you think these people are doing to "support the troops," other than displaying the phrase on their cars? Did they vote for George W. Bush because he does so much to "support the troops"? Are they going to vote for John McCain because he will do the same? Not all of them, I'm sure, but a lot of them will, I know. And they have every right to do so.
But here is something they and everyone else can do: Make calls to 166 lawmakers and ask them why they don't want those soldiers coming home from Iraq and Afghanistan to be able to attend college. Sure, it might take a little time, but hey, these are the troops you support.
The other day, the House voted to pass the 21st Century G.I. Bill, to update veterans' benefits. Included in this bill is a full scholarship at any in-state public university, along with a monthly housing stipend, for anyone who serves in the military for at least three years. It's not cheap, but neither is war. If passed, it will cost $52 billion over the course of 10 years. Not all that bad, when you consider how much the war itself is costing every day. Shoot, if just a few of the private war contractors chipped in a nominal portion of the billions they are making off the war (you know, charge $5 for a bottle of water for a soldier in the desert instead of $6), it would probably pay for it. But that kind of thing doesn't happen in this country, so those liberal tax-crazed Democrats sponsoring the bill are trying to impose a surtax on individuals with incomes above $500,000 and couples with income exceeding $1 million. Now, I know that is a terrible burden on these people, which is why 166 members of the House opposed it. But 256 members, including 32 Republicans, thought it was a good idea. So do I. Not that I will ever have that kind of income and can't speak from the perspective of someone who does, but it seems that if we want to "support our troops," that's a pretty decent way to start.
Unfortunately, President Bush doesn't share this opinion. He has threatened to veto the legislation should it pass. I suppose it would make his tax breaks for the wealthy kind of null and void if they were offset with this kind of tax increase, and what kind of sense does that make? And John McCain has said he doesn't support the bill either, saying he would rather devise his own plan that would be more modest and not give the veterans he so warmly embraces quite as much to come home to. So perhaps if you don't have time to call or write the 166 lawmakers (and yes, some of them are Democrats, so be sure to call them too) who voted against the bill, you can do your part at the election booth this November by just not voting for John McCain. You could do it in one punch of a button and vote for someone else. It would only take a second and wouldn't put much of a dent in your schedule.
And while you're at it, you might pick up the phone and call the Department of Veterans Affairs and ask why they don't have the funding to adequately care for those veterans who are fortunate enough to come home from the war alive, albeit not in such great shape. Back in March, a VA employee sent an e-mail memo to her staff that read: "Given that we are having more and more compensation-seeking veterans, I'd like to suggest that we refrain from giving a diagnosis of PTSD [Post Traumatic Stress Disorder] straight out. Consider a diagnosis of Adjustment Disorder, R/O PTSD." R/O stands for "rule out." She went on to say they didn't have the time, anyway, to test for PTSD. Granted, higher-ups in the VA have now said her memo was inappropriate, but it's pretty telling that this kind of attitude is out there. So take the time to think about this too and perhaps write a note to the White House and inquire about how many veterans who might have PTSD are not being treated or are being strangled in red tape trying to get some psychological help. It shouldn't take much more time than tracking down a yellow-ribbon bumper sticker and placing it on your vehicle.
The rain is coming down, slow and persistent from a low gray sky. It soaks the grass, fills the gutters, and falls hard on the flowers left on the Beale Street sidewalk outside of B.B. King's club ...