Veteran's Day Moved Up One Week
Veteran's Day - the day set aside to honor those who have served our country by protecting us overseas and at home - is recognized every November 11th. This year, Veteran's Day will come a week early for me. I'm observing the day on November 4th with my vote for Sen. Barack Obama for President of the United States, and Commander-in-Chief of our Armed Forces.
Allow me to introduce you to my dad. (He's the guy on the right.... the guy with the mischievous grin.) During WWII, Dad joined the United States Navy - a young man eager to defend the country he so loved. Not long after he joined, another young sailor contracted scarlet fever; a Navy doctor quarantined the infected sailor along with his fellow sailors. As a result, Dad (and I'm sure most or all of the others in quarantine) suffered rheumatic fever. Ironically, Dad never fought for his country, but he spent the next quarter-century fighting the Veterans Administration to be qualified as a disabled vet to receive benefits; he struggled against a damaged heart the rest of his life. He underwent open-heart surgery in 1974 to replace one of his valves, and died two years later as a result of his heart condition. He was 49 years old; I was fourteen.
During the years he fought for his VA disability he wasn't fighting selfishly - he was fighting for his wife and kids as well. One victory was college benefits for his children. Not a day went by that Mom or Dad didn't remind me that I was college-bound. Dad didn't live to see me graduate from high school, but I felt his presence the day I registered for my first semester of college. I was petrified when I registered for the first semester of calculus, but I found his old college calculus textbook. For inspiration, I'd read his notes in the margins when I was stuck on a problem from my own text. I earned an A in that class. Then I earned a Bachelors degree, then a Masters.
A soldier should never fight in war only to return home to more fights. I believe that Barack Obama is the person to ensure they are not forgotten. I honor Sen. McCain's service to this country just as much as I honor the service of all other veterans, but on voting records Sen. Obama has proven great sincerity in protecting the rights of vets. In his work in Illinois, and his work in the United States Senate (including service on the U.S. Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs), Barack Obama has fought for -- and voted to -- protect veterans and their families.
- He fought for legislation to improve care and slash red tape for wounded soldiers recovering at facilities such as Walter Reed
- He passed laws to help homeless veterans
- He offered an innovative solution to prevent at-risk veterans from falling into homelessness
- He fought for fair treatment of Illinois veterans' claims and forced the VA to conduct an unprecedented outreach campaign to disabled veterans with lower-than-average benefits
- He passed legislation to stop a VA review of closed PTSD cases that could have led to reduced veterans' benefits
- He led a bipartisan effort in the Senate to protect veterans from the military's unfair practice of discharging service members for having service-related psychological injury
- He passed an amendment ensuring that all Iraq War vets are properly screened for traumatic brain injuries
- He introduced legislation to direct the VA and the Pentagon to fix disjointed records systems
These are just a few of his accomplishments in protecting veterans. McCain's voting record on veterans' issues, on the other hand, is shockingly inadequate. He opposed the 21st Century G.I. Bill. The VA paid for McCain's college education, just like it paid for mine. But when given the opportunity to vote for veterans' college benefits as a Senator, he voted against it. He was one of only 13 Republicans who voted against additional funding for VA healthcare clinics. He voted against increases in veterans' healthcare funding in '04, '05, '06, and '07. He voted for disabled veterans only 25% of the time.
My dad entered the Navy with a healthy heart; he left the Navy with a damaged one that stopped beating before his 50th birthday... before his youngest daughter's high school graduation. Am I looking for a President who cares about disabled vets? Hell yes. Do I show my love of country by wrapping myself in the flag? No, I'll just thank a veteran instead.