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If you volunteer, put on a uniform and march off to war...

by Peary Perry
Peary Perry
Ok…let’s see if I’ve got this correct….we’re asking our young men and women to sign up (volunteer) for service in our armed forces. Then we send them off for basic training and then to some specialized training, after which they most likely will be sent off to our current war de’jure. There they will be subjected to hardships most of us will never be forced to endure. Heat, sand, dirt, fear, betrayal, hunger, thirst and oh yes, I forgot to mention, possibly maiming and death. Those are somewhat important as well. Losing your life will certainly put a crimp in your day as will the loss of an arm, leg or other vital parts we humans have come to rely upon.

In addition to these hardships, we then say to our unsuspecting innocent young men and women…..’ oh, yes we forgot to tell you, but you’re not going to be over in this horrible place for just one tour of duty, we might have to send you back there two or three times…..We’re sure that’s ok with you, isn’t it?”

So, our fine young men and women just suck it up and carry on, doing the best they can for as long as they have to do it. That’s what they do, suck it up and gut it out. We praise them for their valor, decorate them for their bravery, and bind up their physical wounds and send them back out for another day. Hopefully they return each day with their bodies and souls intact.

Then comes the time for them to finally be discharged. But wait, the mental images of their friends and buddies being blown into tiny bits and pieces won’t leave their brains. They start having nightmares and stress issues because of the horrors and surreal aspects of warfare they have experienced. They suffer hearing problems, loss of memory, anxiety and insomnia as they are slowly rotated back into our society. This condition is normally known as PTSD or post traumatic stress disorder.

In our civilian world a person who suffers this kind of injury is usually taken care of by workers compensation. Not for our brave men and women. No sir. Not going to happen.

In the case of over 22,000 of our current returning Army veterans, these poor troopers have been discharged under something called Chapter 5-13. Simply stated this is ‘separation because of personality disorder’. The Army calls it a ‘pre-existing maladaptive pattern of behavior of long duration.’ which interferes with the soldier’s ability to perform their duties.

So what does all this mean? Well, it allows the good old US military to discharge these men and women by stating that their post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) was a ‘pre-existing’ condition and so the veteran is not eligible for medical benefits, treatment and in some cases required to pay back their enlistment or re-enlistment bonuses.

Is this great or what? We can get volunteers to sign up, get sent overseas, get shot at, experience horrible events. Then we’ll discharge them and label the discharge reason as something that was pre-existing so we don’t have to pay for any treatment or future benefits.

What a crock.

In the real (business) world if I hire someone with a pre-existing health issue, I must live with it, no matter what. I can choose not to hire them if I do not want to accept the liability and consequences, but if I do hire them, then shame on me if anything happens while they are working that aggravates their pre-existing medical issue.

Not our military, let’s use them up and then send them off without any future liability by saying something along the lines of…..’Well, they were sick in the head when they got here.’

Folks, this is just plain wrong. First off, if they were mentally ill when they enlisted, then they should not have been allowed to join up in the first place. They should have been weeded out and not allowed to go into combat where their mental condition could be further harmed or they might possibly harm someone else.

If the military hired them, then apply the same rules to them that apply to those of us in business. These men and women are now their responsibility and should be eligible for treatment and benefits. The military should have done a better job of screening them in the first place if this is a big issue for them. Shame on the military for accepting anyone who walks in the door and then complain later about ‘inadequate screening processes.’

In my book, if you volunteer, put on a uniform and march off to war…you should be eligible to receive any type of assistance this country has to offer, no matter how much it costs and no matter how long it takes.

I have found only one Senator, Kit Bond of Missouri, who is concerned over this and is trying to reverse this process. You need to write him and thank him for his efforts.

Who wants to volunteer for this kind of treatment? Not me.
© Peary Perry
Letters From North America

July 17, 2007 column
Syndicated weekly in 80 newspapers

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