America's Permanent State of War: Abroad and At Home, In Our Hospitals and In Our Streets
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Charged, finally: Theodore Wafer has been charged with second-degree murder, involuntary manslaughter and felony with a firearm. Renisha McBride was 19 years old when he shot her in the face on his front porch in Dearborn Heights, Michigan. The average age of the soldiers who signed up to fight in the Vietnam War was also 19. The lyrics of Paul Hardcastle’s 1985 musical track, "19," repeat this fact.
Those 19-year-old soldiers participated in declared wars that targeted specific lands, nations and peoples under the guise of national security and building a stronger America. There have been many other wars post-Vietnam, including illegal wars like Iraq and "just" wars like Afghanistan. These wars were all declared, all announced to a nation that was expected to support its troops.
Every year we have Veterans Day in honor of those who fought in wars declared in the name of national security and honor. This year, President Obama spoke of warriors and heroes slain on battlefields defending the nation, as is typical of American exceptionalism.
"As more than a million troops return to civilian life, we're going to have to work even harder because the skill, dedication and courage of our troops is unmatched. And when they come home we all benefit from their efforts to build a stronger America and a brighter future for our kids. So to all our veterans on behalf of the entire nation, thank you for everything you've done and continue to do for our country. As your commander in chief I am proud of your service and grateful for your sacrifice. And as long as I'm president I will make it my mission to make sure that America has your back—not just on one day or one weekend, but 365 days per year."
The ritual of honoring veterans is ensured with banners and ceremonies, sports events and TV specials. The focus is especially on the healthy and the handsome soldiers and not everyone who is in a hospital, mentally wrecked on drugs, or severly depressed and suicidal. Jets fly overhead, color guards stand at attention. In these declared wars, resources are invested, training is given and weapons are carried. Coffins with flags draped over them are signifiers of the somber ceremony surrounding the burying of bloodied heroes slain on battlefields for a grateful nation. We use words such as honor, sacrifice and noble struggle.
Because foreign battlefields become domestic ones when wars travel home, with soldiers navigating the minefields of finding healthcare for injuries sustained protecting you and me. These are the remnants of war, fragmented and untold.
On Democracy Now, Amy Goodman did a segment for V-Day that reported on the increasing numbers of soldiers facing high levels of unemployment, committing suicide, and negotiating the landmines of trauma from these declared wars. The numbers were chilling: since 2000, nearly 6000 soldiers have had traumatic amputations; nearly 1 million active service members have been diagnosed with at least one mental disorder, and nearly half of those have been diagnosed with two or more according to the Veterans’ Administration.
Last year more US military personnel died by their own hands than by the hands of others, and on any given night, nearly 63,000 veterans are homeless. Many veterans suffer debilitating chronic problems. During the segment, Goodman spoke with author and photographer Ann Jones about her new book, They Were Soldiers: How the Wounded Return from America's Wars—The Untold Story, which, in part, documents the profound and sometimes fatal wounds these recent declared wars have produced for many of its soldiers.