Last week, I did a couple of posts on the state of veterans and their families in America and on the WaPo's Walter Reed reporting. In my Walter Reed piece, I took Brit Hume to task for his pissy commentary on Faux News regarding Rep. Jack Murtha — who goes each and every week to visit with soldiers at Walter Reed, and who has a very up close and personal understanding of the cost of George Bush's failures as a result. And while I see that an investigation has been launched into the abysmal and neglected conditions in which some of our soldiers have been living the last few years while they were supposed to be receiving outpatient care, it isn't nearly soon enough.
The best part of writing all of this came from a reader (let's call him "K") who sent along the above YouTube. It is such a wonderful project that some local folks in Rockaway Beach started because they saw such a desperate need from returning soldiers who had lost limbs and were having difficulty dealing with their injuries — or who were simply suffering from PTSD and had no real ability to cope with it — or any number of issues that fell into the gap and the cracks of what our government was providing for them.
You see, this community had already been through this with so many of its losses on 9/11: firefighters, police officers, and port authority police as well, who were lost in the fall of the twin towers, or injured trying to save their compatriots over those long, long days of sorrow and exhausted, dust-covered desperate searching in the rubble. I know about this, because I had dear friends who lived in the area, who spent so much time trying to help out in any way that they could for their friends and neighbors who were going back into the city every day to work at the damaged site.
We all lost so much on 9/11. Still today, I can sit here and type this and feel that empty, sinking feeling of loss, all these years later. I know so many of you reading out there have similar stories of loss and remembrance.
That this community in Rockaway could take that staggering loss and turn it into something this wonderful? That is the best that America can be.
I talked a lot about the needs that these soldiers and their families are having last weekend, and shared a few links to programs that are trying to fill in these gaps. The thing is, though, that what I wrote barely scratched the surface of what is actually needed for these folks. And I barely listed a few programs — there are so many others out there that could use some help, some financial assistance, or simply some folks to show up and hold hands while people wait for news from family members who may or may not have been injured in their nation's uniform.
The NYTimes had a recent piece about how military families are coping — or trying to and failing in some cases — with the long, stressful separations and possible losses. Especially with regard to National Guard and Reserves troops, who lack the built-in support networks that regular military get, this has been especially difficult. From the NYTimes:
The situation is likely to grow worse as the military increases the number of troops in Iraq in coming months. The Pentagon announced Wednesday that it was planning to send more than 14,000 National Guard troops back to Iraq next year, causing widespread concern among reservists. Nearly a third of the troops who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan have done more than one tour of duty.
Most families and soldiers cope, sometimes heroically. But these separations have also left a trail of badly strained or broken unions, many severed by adultery or sexual addictions; burdened spouses, some of whom are reaching for antidepressants; financial turmoil brought on by rising debts, lost wages and overspending; emotionally bruised children whose grades sometimes plummet; and anxious parents who at times turn on each other….
Even many active-duty military families, used to the difficulties of deployments, are reeling as soldiers are being sent again and again to war zones, with only the smallest pause in between. The unrelenting fear of death or injury, mental health problems, the lack of recuperative downtime between deployments and the changes that await when a soldier comes home hover over every household.
And unlike the Vietnam era, when the draft meant that many people were directly touched by the conflict, this period finds military families feeling a keen sense of isolation from the rest of society. Not many Americans have a direct connection to the war or the military. Only 1.4 million people, or less than 1 percent of the American population, serve in the active-duty military.
Supporting these troops and their families is more than just slapping a magnet on your SUV and driving around town feeling superior. It's showing up at the house of a family whose dad is on his fourth tour to help with a plumbing emergency in the middle of the night. (Thank you local union guys who have done this.) Or offering to babysit for an afternoon so a stressed-out mom can get a little "me" time for the first time in months and months. Or a billion other things, all in the name of decency and community.
Whatever you think of the failures of George Bush, the people who most pay the price for them are the children of our soldiers and their families. It is not too much to ask that some of us might want to give back a little to those folks.
But it isn't just the families of our soldiers who are hurting these days in America. The disparity between the "haves" and the "have so little they don't even remember what have means" folks is growing. I see it every day here in my town. I hear it from the folks that I know who run the local homeless shelter. I see it when I drop off a donation to the local Goodwill store whenever I get time to unpack a few more boxes in our garage and sort through the keep and the donate piles.
We talk a lot here on this blog and around the rest of the lefty blogoverse about what needs to be done to make our nation better, stronger, or more just. But we don't often get to the part where we talk about what we can do, ourselves, to make that happen. Here is something that you, on your own, can do — find a community group that is working with folks in need, and volunteer some time helping them out.
It is an incredible gift to give to yourself. Truly.
And if you can't find a group or organization that is meeting a need that you know desperately needs to be met in your town? Well, why not get a group of your friends together and work on solving it. Look at what these folks in Rockaway did. This is the true spirit of America. It is honorable. It is decent and caring and kind. And above all, it is human — reaching out to one another to heal the wounds that we have all sustained in one way or another over the last few years.
Let's talk about how we are helping out in our own communities, swap some links to organizations who are doing great work here and abroad. Let's talk about service and sacrifice and giving a little back. And how we can get up from behind our computer screens and out into the world to do some good — or how we can use our computer time to do some good — whatever. But let's talk about giving back. Because it is well past time that someone started talking about it again. What are you doing to make your community, your nation, your world a better place? Let's talk about proactive and decent things to do with our time this morning, that might just make someone else's life better, too. Pull up a chair…
PS: The funniest thing about all of this is: Larry Johnson forwarded my piece directly to Brit Hume. Yes, I am still laughing about it. No word from Brit on what he's decided to do to help out — and no thank you note from him yet, either. But I'm a patient woman.
PPS: Please send some spare good thoughts Steve Gilliard's way. He's been hospitalized. We luvya Steve — get well soon.
PPPS: Bob Geiger has some great cartoons up this morning.