Broken Promises

Those who served in the armed forces of our country, particularly those who were career military personnel, usually view life in terms of black and white. There are very few shades of gray in the military makeup. In the profession of arms, timeliness is mandatory and keeping your word to those within your ranks is a way of life. If the attack begins at 5 am with artillery support to soften up the objective, it could be a fatal mistake should artillery fire actually start at 6 am when friendly forces were almost to their objective. Worse yet would be no promised artillery fire ever softening the objective and being forced to face a much stronger entrenched enemy.

That is just a brief example of the military mindset. Those who served in uniform learn early that what they are told must be the truth and the truth needs to become a reality when and where it was promised. To do any less is often to pay the price of broken promises with the lives of many comrades-in-arms. These hard truths of military life become a part of the individual, and remain ingrained as a personality trait many years after the uniform has been placed in an attic locker box.

That mindset was very much in play after eight years of Clinton's anti-military administration. So, in massive numbers, the veterans, the retired military the reservists and those on active duty voted for a Bush presidency. Few would argue against the military family vote being a major factor in the Republican victory, particularly in the final hours of the Florida recount.

Today there are between 26 and 27 million veterans in the United States and abroad. That number doubles when like-minded family members are factored into the equation. Though nobody has bothered to take a specific poll of their attitudes, antidotal evidence would support the premise that the vast majority of these men and women no longer support the false promise administration of George W. Bush. What is even more disheartening, they have little respect for either of the major political parties and complete distain for all who are responsible for the governmental trail of broken promises.

There are many veterans who speak out strongly about the wrong-headed actions of our government. In the past, Washington's response claimed the comments were “politically motivated”. Today, as this country is engaged in mortal combat, their response is these veterans are unpatriotic or anti-American. Most veteran activists, including this writer, have been so chastised. But, what is the military community really saying and why are they offering such vitriolic commentary?

Says John Clayton, a retired Air Force Master Sergeant from Airway Heights, Washington, “While we were serving in the military, we were expected to have honesty and integrity, and took an oath to uphold the Constitution of the United States. Our government held us accountable. Today we expect the same honesty and integrity from them that they expected from us. It is not being returned.”

Chief Master Sergeant Buck Yeager, a 21-year Air Force veteran from Helensdale, California writes on the Internet, “the biggest government lie and broken promise is lifetime medical and hospital care was promised but never lived up to.”

Dixie Mock is the widow of an “Atomic Veteran”. She says they all “served proudly and secretly and they are certainly paying the price with their suffering, from both the pain and the rejection by the government. The veteran's families are forced to watch and see the pain in their faces when they continue to get rejections of their claims. How can the government officials responsible for these lies, cover-ups and denials sleep at night?”

These comments were taken from among hundreds of veterans and active duty military personnel who were canvassed about the governmental supporters charges of veteran anti-American attitude.

There were even harsher words, such as those of Lonnie Vessell, a Navy retiree from Crystal City, Missouri. “It is not so much the false promises I am concerned about, but the scam that our government is running when we send perfectly healthy young men and women to the middle east and have them come back damn near vegetables due to biological or chemical warfare being used...then say it is not our responsibility to care for them and their families. Look how long it took them to admit to Agent Orange and we still don't know the end result of Gulf Wars I and II. This crap has got to stop.”

Another retired Navy AVCM from Kill Devil Hills; North Carolina is Ellery DeSanto, Jr. He says that first he was lied to about receiving no-cost health coverage for his years of service. Next he was lied to when they awarded him disability compensation received for service in combat and taxed him 100% for the compensation he received, taking that money from his retirement pay. He claims he was lied to again when he signed up for the Survivors Benefit Plan insurance and nobody in the government ever told him there would be a reduction in those benefits when his wife reached age 62. “I feel the government out and out lied to me on all of these issues”, he concludes.

Ken Adams is on the National Board of Directors for the Retired Enlisted Association. He claims that Reserves and National Guard personnel called up for active duty cannot get paid for months after their call-up date. He says the Secretary of Defense doesn't want to pay them until they are actually on foreign soil. “What kind of a government is this? What have they become? How did we get fooled into voting for these people? I think we, the American people, need to call for a full investigation of how our men and women in uniform are being treated and what kind of support system is in place to help their families while they are away.”

The government is even injecting its attitudes into the personal lives of active duty personnel. Two Florida National Guardsmen have been sanctioned for having the audacity to marry Iraqi women. The government is so upset by their action it is attempting to block the service wives entry into the United States.

“And we can't forget the promises that claimed nothing would be denied our service personnel”, says Army wife Helen Moore of Las Vegas, Nevada. “Yet many of them were sent into Iraq without the newest and best of protective body armor. Reports abound that family members are buying these improved armaments for their loved ones on the open market from private funds.”

Retired Marine Gunnery Sergeant William Harvey of Costa Mesa, California claims, “The Class Act Lawsuit that was refused by the supreme Court after the Appeals Court said promises of no cost health care had been made and should be honored are among the broken promises we must endure. President Bush tricked all veterans into voting for him with slogans like 'A Promise Made Is a Promise Kept'. He now threatens to veto bills, which would make some of those promises reality.”

But, the president is not the only target of military family rage. “I just wish there was some way we could get every last one of them out of our pockets, out of our faces and out of our lives”, says Martin Steelman, another retired Marine officer from Detroit, Michigan. The administration and everyone in both parties of Congress share alike in their foul treatment of both active duty and retired armed forces personnel. They sponsor and co-sponsor nice sounding legislation and then make sure it never reaches the floor for a vote. The next thing they do is write you a letter and blame everything on the opposing party. What a sorry bunch we have in Washington.

These comments touch only the surface of military family's feelings toward our government today. In a four inch high stack of printed responses about these matters, not one email or letter was received that supported the government and the administration on issues related to the military family. It should also be noted that in every case, though nobody would defend the government, all would again defend the country.

The summation of all that has been said may have been made best by a retired Marine, a writer, and my SCUBA diving partner in those days when we were young. Chuck Kester of Edenton, North Carolina sent me a 16th Century jingle, which just about says it all:

God and the soldier we all adore
In time of trouble, not before.
The troubles over, all things righted,
God is forgotten, and the soldier slighted.