Wednesday, November 11, 2015
The nation honors all those who served our country fighting wars with their own special
day. We pay tribute to the men and woman who put their lives on the line against faceless
enemies in countries far, far away. There will be a few parades and a lot of pictures
flooding Facebook of the American flag and our heroes who did so much for us. They
helped attain what we all enjoy today: freedom.
It's not enough.
For all the bravery, courage, determination, and sacrifice these veterans made, giving
them a day pales in comparison to what they truly deserve. And how our government
treats them is downright right embarrassing.
A 'thank you' will not do.
These men and woman leave the comforts of their home and the love of their families to
spill blood and sweat on foreign soil. What they return to is almost beyond comprehension.
Soldiers who had limbs blown off, their spirits shaken, and in many cases, their psyche
shattered forever, often have to wait long periods of time to get the benefits they earned
and the professional help they desperately need.
Instead of letting them go to the front of the line and take care of them immediately,
our government sometimes doesn't take care of them at all. President Obama may give
them a pat on the back or weave together a few words of praise, but when the cameras
are off it becomes something barely more than a, "hey, good job, thanks for playing."
According to CNN, the average wait for those who served in Iraq and Afghanistan to
get their benefits is between 316 and 327 days. Almost a year! That's absurd. All
the money the government spends keeping Guantanamo Bay open for terrorist
prisoners ($450 million a year) would be better served taking care of our own instead
of all the ones who tried to destroy our country.
After the soldiers return home, turn in their weapons while trying to tune out the
horrors of wars, there is little waiting for them in terms of a career. They don't have
jobs waiting for them or counseling provided by the government to at least
help them find one.
A few corporations like Wal-Mart have pledged to hire up to a 100,000 veterans, but
it's not enough and the government should be doing a lot more. They ask soldiers
to make tremendous sacrifices, fight for our country, put their lives on the line, and
they don't have their backs when they return home.
Professional sports teams produce special Army fatigue uniforms which they wear
and sell for a nifty profit. The message is a great one: support our troops and veterans.
But what do they actually do for them? They, along with their families, should never
have to pay for parking, concessions, and tickets to the game. That should mandated
across the board by our government
According to a report in the New York Times, there are 22 suicides among veterans
every day. Yes, every day! One is too many. 22 is a terrible tragedy that can be
prevented. These men and woman need help. Sure, you trying going to war for
three years and have to kill or be killed. Is your job that stressful? I think not. These
soldiers have to come home, decompress, and then blend into society as if
It's silly, absurd, and doesn't really make any sense. The government's motto should
be: "We take care of all those who take care of us." That's how it should
be, no questions asked.
Too bad it all can't be that simple. With our government nothing ever is.
Monday, November 9, 2015
I crashed a party on November 6th and it's one of the best things I've done in a while.
During the midst of reporting on a story about the temperatures in New York shattering
a mark that stood since 1885, I happened upon a petite lady whose years, 85, seemed to
match her bodyweight.
Ms. Henrietta, as she introduced herself, was sitting on a park bench on a near perfect,
sun-splashed afternoon. She was the center of attention as her son, daughter, and two
grandchildren surrounded her, joyfully trying to make her birthday, a special one.
There was a small cake drenched with vanilla frosting and a few gifts already unwrapped,
resting against the concrete base of a bench that had little trouble supporting her. There
was something about Henrietta that fascinated me. It may have been the big smile or the
deep grooves in her forehead which were like the rings of an oak tree. There were many
which indicated she had been around for a while. Henrietta was born in 1930 and her
soulful eyes with a tinge of sadness, screamed out loud that she had seen a lot in her
lifetime, not all of which was good.
I sat next to Henrietta on the park bench, microphone in hand, ready to capture a few
words that would certainly give a little more joy to my story. There were moments when
Henrietta would just stare out at the small ripples on the Hudson River, the only things that
could smudge an otherwise, Chamber of Commerce day.
I asked Henrietta where she was from. "I was born in Poughkeepsie," she said. Then
after a long pause, Henrietta said, "but I moved around to a lot of different places before
settling in Nyack." She made "a lot of different places" sound like "a lot of tough times."
Born during the Great Depression era, I couldn't imagine the things Henrietta and her family
may have gone through. As a teen, she lived through a brutal period where blacks in
this country were heavily discriminated against. No, Henrietta didn't need to write
a book with pictures to let the world know life had not been easy. You just knew. She
didn't wear her heart on her sleeve, it covered every inch of her face.
Henrietta became a big part of my day and I needed to find a way to make her part of my
story. She was a true gem and one of those people who can put a smile on a face without
saying a word. Not a single one.
It was 78 degrees on November 6th, a spectacular day to celebrate an 85th birthday. I asked
Henrietta if she had ever experienced a day like this one on her birthday.
"No I haven't," Henrietta said. "It's a beautiful day. A really beautiful day."
And Henrietta is a beautiful person. A really beautiful person.