Lately I’ve been seeing a staggering number of Wounded Warrior Project commercials on television. They’re always the same. Country musician Trace Adkins pops up on my screen encouraging me, and everyone else watching that particular channel, to contribute to the proud cause of the Wounded Warrior Project. Photos and interviews with military veterans who have suffered significant trauma, both mental and physical, are interspersed throughout the ad. And I can’t help thinking every time I see these commercials, why is this organization even necessary?
Correct me if I’m wrong, but military veterans who are injured in wartime or through military service, are essentially workers injured on the job. Wouldn’t their employer be on the hook for their medical needs? It seems likely that at least a significant portion of those costs would be borne by the company or the contractor who hired those employees and assigned them to perform dangerous tasks under difficult circumstances. And that’s assuming these people were injured while employed in the private sector.
Obviously, our military vets with injuries are not private contractors. They are volunteers who make the conscious choice to pick up arms to defend our nation and its people. They willingly embark on a noble career path that will at least potentially put them in harm’s way. And they do it without regard for high pay, special perks, or lavish retirement benefits. They ask only one thing of the rest of us – they ask us to have their back if things get ugly.
So why don’t we? I have to wonder how it is that we as a nation send young men and women off to hot spots around the world, telling them how proud we are of them from the enlistment center all the way to the ramp of the ship or aircraft taking them to their assignment, and then we forget them when they come home bruised and battered, in need of our help.
Hat’s off to Trace Adkins and the people who founded and run the Wounded Warrior Project. Their work is an indication of exactly how charitable, giving, compassionate, and loving Americans can be. But it is also an embarrassing indication of exactly how forgetful our government is, even when it comes to keeping faith with those we put so much trust and hope in – only to let them down when they need us most.
The Wounded Warrior Project’s vision statement is this; “To foster the most successful, well-adjusted generation of wounded service members in our nation’s history.”
Shouldn’t that be the motto of the Veteran’s Administration, rather than that of a private charity? I may be nit-picking here, but I don’t think so. The value of a slogan like, “Leave no man behind,” pales if the intent is no more than to bring him home so he can live under a highway overpass, selling oranges by the side of the road, and suffer his wounds in silence.
We can do better than this. We should do better than this. And if I’m not mistake, we as a people have been promised by administration after administration that we would do better than this. Are those just empty words on the campaign trail? Because these men and women coming home without a limb, or with burns, or with psychological trauma, they’re real. They don’t disappear on the day after the votes are counted. They continue to exist, and struggle, and suffer.
This sad state of affairs makes me wonder how the dream of nationalized healthcare will work out if it ever comes to pass. If the government can’t even keep their promise to care for the soldiers, sailors, and marines they contract with – how will the rest of us fair when we have persistent health issues that require attention? How will our kids get through all the childhood ailments that threaten them? How will our parents get along as they age and become ever more frail and in need of support?
The trend isn’t encouraging. The stated purpose of the Wounded Warrior Project is to raise awareness and enlist the public’s aid for the needs of injured service members. That comes straight from their website, which I hope you will consider visiting in the near future. They are also dedicated to helping injured service members aid and assist each other. And to provide unique, direct programs and services to meet the needs of injured service members.
Most of that last paragraph comes directly, word-for-word, from the Wounded Warrior Project itself. Yet it strikes me that those goals should be firmly rooted in an office at the Pentagon. The work that Wounded Warrior does should be entirely unnecessary, not because I expect peace to break out world-wide and persist throughout the years to come – but because we as a nation have made a commitment to the men and women who serve us – and we should keep it. There are men and women from all across this country, from your state, your county, maybe even your town, who are standing right this moment in harm’s way. They are dedicated to fighting off their fear, to fulfill their assignment, no matter what the cost might be to them personally. They’re standing tall to serve their country, to protect their peers, and to achieve the goals we, set out for them.
I think they deserve to know that if tragedy befalls them, they don’t have to hope and pray for the generosity of strangers to provide the medical care they need to get back to living a full and worthwhile life. I think they should be able to shoulder their burdens knowing that the United States of America and its people are standing right there beside them. I think they should be confident in the knowledge that we will care for them, and their families, for as long as it takes to get them back on track, no matter what.
Right now, we’re not doing that. The Wounded Warrior Project is. Which leads me to ask the obvious question. What’s wrong with this picture? Better yet, what are you going to do about it?