United Boomers of America appreciates and supports ANY program that helps returning veterans re-enter what is certainly a challenging workplace. However, while the current media is patting themselves on the back for joining the Chamber of Commerce in assisting the Iraq and Afghanistan veterans, the UBA community wants to once again express frustration and aggravation that veterans of previous wars don’t seem to warrant equal effort with a highly publicized national project.
UBA has chosen the Viet Nam Veterans of America organization as our social giveback. My foster brother was shot up in the Mekong Delta and eventually died from complications caused by the wounds. It sickens me when I think about how these veterans were treated when they returned, and never forgetting that time is a good thing for us all. While reading a recent post from Bruce Krasting, titled Heroes, published February 10, 2012, I was so moved by Eddie’s story that I wanted to share some of it with you:
‘I know a man. Call him Eddie. He’s African American, going on about 63. When he was a boy he had no real home or much education, so when he was eighteen he took the only option available to him. He joined the military. That was 1967. He must have been a hell of a soldier. He ended up in the Army’s 1st Cavalry Division – one of the toughest outfits around.
In February of 1968 he fought in the battle of Hue during the Tet offensive. He was in non-stop firefights for three weeks. He said half his platoon were killed or wounded. He told me about the time he held onto a fellow soldier, while he bled to death from a sniper round through the throat.
After the Tet Offensive his tour was up, but for some stupid reason (probably a few thousand dollars) he did a second tour. In April of 1968 he went back “up country” with the 1st Cav. This time he fought in the A Shau Valley (referred to at the time as the “Valley of Death”). The fighting was as intense as any combat in history. Eddie once talked of the time that he spent a night in a bomb crater with two dead comrades while the Viet Cong were shooting AK47s with green tracers over his head. He also talked about killing the enemy in hand-to-hand combat. His buddies did the same.
Eddie walked away from the war he was sent to fight, but he was a broken man. He has Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). He has never been able to function properly. He is afraid of everything. On the Fourth of July he has to be sedated. He’s terrified by the noise of the fireworks. The Army never questioned that he was damaged goods, and that it was his time in battle that was responsible. They gave him antidepressants; after a while he got a half disability pension. Life was just a struggle. Eight years ago I (Bruce) banged on a bunch of doors and helped him get a full disability pension. He’s okay these days, sort of.’
I bring up Eddie’s story in connection with a new report from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO). Almost one in four (21%) of our soldiers are coming home with PTSD. The CBO attempts to come up with a price for this. By its calculation, it costs an average of $10,000 per year for each soldier with PTSD. For how long? The CBO reports that 80+% of those with PTSD were still in need of treatment after four years. For Eddie, it’s been forty plus years now. Of course the CBO numbers don’t measure the real cost. What is the cost of a busted life?
“I watched my brother wither away as jungle rot infections started at the bullet holes and spread throughout his body. Can we put a $10,000 per year price on his life? Like Eddie, he fought to keep America free, and we all owe vets a debt that can never be fully paid.
As our elected officials in Washington consider our future economic responsibilities, let’s remind them that before we send millions to foreign military, we should fulfill our responsibilities to our own military – past and present. We have many choices to replace soldiers with technology in the future. We only have those choices because millions of previous vets stepped up and said they were willing to go fight so we could have those future choices. UBA is dedicated to helping the very ones who gave us the opportunity to help. Thanks Vets!