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Lincoln Said It Best: Honor Our Vets

BY KENNETH KOWALD   |   Shortly after the invasion of Afghanistan in October of 2001, there was a surge of patriotism. More American flags were flown. Paper strips with the message “Support Our Troops” appeared on many cars.

Than came the Spring of 2003 and our invasion of Iraq in mid-March of that year. More flags. More paper strips.

On May 1, 2003, we were assured in words and banners “Mission Accomplished.”

We bungled the first invasion. We didn’t get Osama bin Laden, nor did the Taliban disappear. By coincidence, we got bin Laden — in his Pakistan hideout — eight years exactly to the day of “Mission Accomplished.”

We are still finding out about the mess we found in Iraq, the mess we made worse and the mess we left worse than ever. So much for trillions of dollars and millions of scars in mind and body.

But let that go. What we are faced with are millions of veterans and their families who need help and are not getting it.

Any “Support Our Veterans” signs around? How many speakers will speak to this on Veterans Day and then do something about it?

I was drafted into the Army when there was no shooting war. My service was limited, thanks to Congress, to just over a year. I have no complaints.

My dealings with the Veteran’s Administration were fine. For two weeks after honorable discharge, I was without a job and I got some money to help. The GI Bill paid for my graduate work at Columbia.

Today, everyone serving in our Armed Forces is someone who signed up to protect this country. We seem to keep forgetting that. The kids from around here, women and men, are in the services because they want to be there. Our gratitude should have no bounds.

But, then we come up against scandals in the Veterans Administration. Hearings are held. Heads roll. Maybe things are getting better. They should be, but it will take eternal vigilance. According to a Pew survey, 77 percent of the combined Congressional delegation were veterans in 1997–1998. As of September, 2013, that combined number was about 20 percent.

Maybe that’s why it takes a scandal to get action on Capitol Hill and in the White House.

Yes, protect our troops. Make sure if we send them into battle we do so properly and make sure they have the gear they need. No more going into battle “with what you’ve got.” One the prospects for the Ninth Circle of Hell said that.

Protect their families, too, from scams and frauds.

Abraham Lincoln’s second inaugural address, delivered on March 4, 1865, is one of the noblest declamations of all time, in my opinion, and that of many others. Like the Gettysburg Address, it is quite short and it shares space with that speech on the Lincoln Memorial.

“To care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphans.”

A noble purpose, stated nobly.

Yes, let us protect our troops and our veterans and their families. And keep up that protection after the Veterans Day parades and speeches have gone into oblivion.

Isn’t that the least we can do?

Kenneth Kowald served during World War II from Feb. 1946 to Feb. 1947 as editor of The Flaming Bomb, a weekly newsletter in Aberdeen, Maryland.

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