In religious parlance, sacrifice is an offering to god as an act of propitiation, and while sacrifice often implies ritual killing, it can also mean giving one’s life for a greater good. Christians claim their god sacrificed his son so mankind could live eternally, and that Jesus made the ultimate sacrifice in offering his mortal life as a ransom for mankind’s sins. Today Americans honor members of the armed forces who made the ultimate sacrifice by enlisting in the military and offering their lives in defense of this country, and regardless what one thinks of war, the military, or veterans, they deserve the same support and allegiance as religion’s imaginary beings.
Every year there is a ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery to honor and thank all who served in the United States Armed Forces, and although a ceremony, parades, and flags are nice gestures, it is how America takes care of its citizens’ who offered their lives in defense of their country that reveals how a nation honors its Veterans’ sacrifice. Republicans love the military as a tool to impose their will on the rest of the world and to enrich the military industrial complex, but when it comes time to care for service members after their enlistments end, the GOP treats them like the rest of the population; with contempt and disregard.
It is a harsh reality, but over the past 11 years Republicans squandered the lives of thousands of service members by waging two unnecessary wars against Muslims, and when they have had opportunities to help returning Veterans with benefits or to find employment, they balked for nefarious reasons. In September, Senate Republicans prevented a Veterans’ jobs bill from coming up for a vote by requiring Democrats to come up with 60 votes that killed a vote on the jobs program. President Obama promoted the Veterans Jobs Corps Act that provides $1 billion over five years to hire 20,000 Veterans for public jobs and to prioritize Vets for police, firefighter, and EMT jobs as well as the infrastructure that helps them in job searches.
The reason Republicans claim they blocked the Veterans Jobs bill was that it had no chance of passing the Republican controlled House that refuses to pass any legislation proposed by President Obama to deny Democrats any semblance of accomplishment. However, Republican’s disregard for Veterans’ sacrifice goes beyond blocking a measly $1 billion over 5 years and it was apparent at the Republican National Convention and Paul Ryan’s Path to Prosperity budget.
Americans who watched Willard’s convention acceptance speech recall he failed to mention Veterans, active-duty service members, or the war in Afghanistan. Romney liked the idea of becoming president to reward the defense industry and help Israel wage war on Iran, but like his treatment of employees Bain Capital raided, service members are expendable. Romney even floated the idea of giving Veterans a coupon for their healthcare to save money for tax cuts for the rich, but fortunately for Veterans, Willard will not have the opportunity to privatize the only socialized program in America. Romney’s running mate, Paul Ryan, submitted a budget that shortchanged Veterans under the guise of reining in spending to fund corporate tax cuts, eliminate Alternative Minimum Tax, cut taxes for the wealthy, and maintain preferential rates on capital gains and dividends, if not end them altogether. According to The Economic Policy Institute, Ryan’s budget cuts domestic spending by $404 billion that not only destroys 4.1 million jobs, but cuts the cost-of-living adjustment for Veterans instead of the bloated Pentagon budget. Ryan’s budget assaults Veterans two ways by cutting their cost-of-living adjustment and killing jobs they desperately need after sacrificing for their country in stark contrast to the work President Obama has put in to help Veterans throughout his first term.
Yesterday at the ceremony honoring Veterans’ sacrifice, President Obama said, “After a decade of war, our heroes are coming home,” and that “over the next few years more than a million service members will transition back to civilian life. No one who fights for this country overseas should ever have to fight for a job or a roof over their head, or the care that they have earned when they come home.” The President also reaffirmed his previous commitment to continue the post-9/11 GI Bill that provides college funding for those who served, and he said “soldiers suffering war-related health problems will get the care they need.” The President has been a fierce advocate for Veterans that began in September 2009 when he signed an extension of the GI Bill for education benefits citing their sacrifices abroad by putting “their very lives on the line for America, and helping Veterans with college tuition and housing is more than a moral obligation.” The President backed up his words by promoting the Veterans’ Jobs bill Republicans blocked from even coming up for a vote.
Americans owe a debt of gratitude to our Veterans for their sacrifice that should go beyond parades, flag waving, and ceremonies at cemeteries once a year. Putting miniature flags on the graves of fallen veterans is a nice symbolic gesture, but that is all it is; a gesture. Whether or not one supports the folly of wars for oil and religious dominance, Americans owe Veterans for their sacrifice after they take off the uniform whether it was World War II, Korea, Viet Nam, or Bush’s folly in Afghanistan and Iraq. Republicans don’t see it that way or they would not block the President’s Veterans’ jobs bill, or support Ryan’s budget that cuts cost of living adjustments, and if they supported Veterans they certainly would not suggest handing Veterans a coupon for healthcare. However, in their drive to reward the wealthy and corporations with more tax cuts, and the defense industry with bloated Pentagon increases, they reveal their true opinion of those who sacrifice and it adds insult to very real injuries.
Today when many Americans enjoy the federal holiday honoring the nation’s Veterans, one hopes they take the time to reflect on the sacrifice some Americans have made in service of their country and take time to thank Veterans and write, call, or email representatives in Congress and demand they pass, immediately, the Veterans Jobs Corps Act and oppose the Ryan budget cuts that affect Veterans cost of living adjustments. While they are at it, they should offer support to local VFW groups assisting Veterans in need and support the President’s efforts to help Veterans that Republicans obstruct while increasing military spending that benefits narrow special interests and not active duty soldiers or Veterans. Republicans have demonstrated their only interest is supporting special corporate interests and the wealthy, but it is time for Americans to demand they fully support the men and women who served all Americans selflessly; even Republicans attempting to keep them unemployed.