- - Wednesday, May 21, 2014

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Our national disgrace and shame throughout history has been the shabby manner in which we have treated our combat veterans upon their return home.

World War I ended in 1918. In 1924, legislation was enacted to provide Army veterans a bonus payment for their service. The catch was that the payment was to be made in 1945, 27 years after the conclusion of their service. In 1924, the life expectancy of an American man was 58. At the height of the Depression in 1932, thousands of veterans, many of them jobless and desperate, asked that the bonus be paid without delay. They were told no, so they camped out in Washington to apply pressure to President Herbert Hoover. He was unsympathetic. The protesters were ultimately removed by government forces, including tanks, their encampments were destroyed and no bonus payment was made.

Black Americans and Jews who fought for their country in World War II returned to a nation that was not ready to welcome them, in an era in which racism and anti-Semitism were rampant. Black troops were not able to sit at lunch counters with their white brethren, a type of segregation that would continue for 20 years after the conclusion of the war.

Similarly, Vietnam veterans did not return to ticker-tape parades or any type of thanks for their valorous service. They were derided and spat upon for carrying out a policy that they did not devise.

Today, the VA is known for either providing inferior and delayed care for which troops must jump through hoops, the latest allegations being that veterans died prematurely while waiting extended periods of time to see health care providers.

If we do not have the resources to provide proper care for our veterans who come home after fighting for our freedom and the freedom of our allies, we cannot afford to go to war. Additionally, we must never forget and always be grateful for the sacrifice and bravery of those who act in our name as troops of the American military throughout the world. God bless them all.

OREN M. SPIEGLER

Upper Saint Clair, Pa.

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