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by Tom Pastore, Vietnam Veteran, ©2014

Engineers of the 8th N.Y. State Militia, 1861, from the National Archives

(Jun. 16, 2014) — Definition:   Complete alienation, complete intractability, immovability, immovable resolution, immutability, incurableness, inexorable positions, intransigence, irreparableness, irreversibility, irrevocability, obduracy, rigidity, rigorism, ruined relationship, total inflexibility, unmoved positions…

“We’re going to do right by our veterans across the board, as long as it takes. We’re not going to stop working to make sure that they get the care, the benefits and the opportunities that they’ve earned and they deserve.” — B.O.

These are the words of Barack Obama, who, like his predecessors before him, has done nothing to really rectify the eternal and historically shameful relationship between the U.S. Government and the Veterans of these United States. The latest V.A. scandal is nothing new to veterans or to the families of these disrespected Americans. A review of America’s history shows an uncaring, heartless and disjointed government that has little to do with embracing and honoring the promises granted to American soldiers coming home from war. Please review these “Highlights of History” along with the resulting shame we have brought upon our fellow Americans known as War Veterans. A misguided government is on a quest of its own that (still) has little to do with the true needs of these United States and is perhaps unknowingly reinforced by too much apathy from amongst the people of these United States. These statistics/facts presented are just a small portion of what has been imposed and inflicted on our fellow Americans by a distrustful and unworthy government. The resulting travesty (upon our Veterans) must allow for history to identify this as the “Greatest Shame of America.” 

Consider the following:

In a new land of 13 Colonies, our first American citizens seeking real freedom were promised by the Continental Congress free tracts of land and pensions should they serve in the Revolutionary War. The reality of these (free?) land claims, once the soldiers returned home, had so many restrictions placed on them, compliments of the Congress, that impoverished soldiers coming home from the war lacked the knowledge or ability to collectively settle on the land tracts, and many were compelled to sell their claims to rich speculators for pennies. Veterans remained in poverty, with no direction and no stability. Furthermore, as part of the enticement to get the poor to fight, the Continental Congress of 1776 legislated Half-Pay for Life to anyone who might become disabled or lose a limb in battle. Unfortunately they had no funds for such compensation, so they left it up to each “State” to provide payment. These so-called pensions never materialized, though the law was in existence. No pensions were really ever devised at the federal level for Veterans until the next War of 1812. Thirty-Five (35) years after the promise was made to now homeless and poor Veterans of the Revolutionary War, even that pension, 35 years later, demanded “Proof” that you had served at least nine months in the Army. That stipulation also excluded what were known as Local Militia and irregular troops of the time period, citizens who could fight only as volunteers due to the need to support their families while fighting for freedom. They sacrificed, fought, and died as regular Army troops did, but that meant little to our Congress and “President.” After all, the politics of “delaying and denying” is a constant ingredient in government rule. The U.S. Government ended up granting pensions 35 years later to just over 3,000 Veterans for a pittance, even during that time, of $96 a year. **None of it was retroactive.

Why do these good Soldiers keep fighting for us?? We don’t deserve them.

President Abraham Lincoln, in 1865 towards the end of the American Civil War, called for good treatment of veterans: “To care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan,” were his words. The V.A. has embraced those words as their motto. Unfortunately, that, too, has yet to become a reality.

The Civil War brought a new Veteran into being, the Drafted Veteran. This was the work of a desperate government that could not find enough Northern Americans wishing to fight the Southern Americans. Unfortunately the government couldn’t even do this fairly. The Civil War was often known as the “Rich man’s War, but the Poor man’s Fight.” Should you be drafted (and you could afford to be), you could merely sell your place in the draft to a substitute individual for $300.00. That compelling sum of money separated the poor from the rich, and once again we created a returning poverty class of Veteran that was not only “war-torn,” but ignored, homeless, mistreated, and in many cases forgotten by those who pushed them into a battle. A Union private made thirteen dollars a month if and when he could collect it.  A Confederate private ostensibly made eleven dollars a month, but often went long stretches with no pay at all. Over three million Americans fought from both sides of this Civil War. Many Americans from both the North and the South came back home to nothing and just wandered the country for years. War Veterans’ rest homes (an original concept of the V.A.), were being set up, but far too few and far too late to truly aid the many returning Veterans. The continuing lack of the government’s understanding of why so many men came back emotionally and mentally incapacitated, unable to lead normal lives, did not make the struggle any easier. Not all their wounds were so evident, and few officials were looking for the causes. Left with no families, no homes, and no one from a once-enthusiastic government to welcome them, feelings of abandonment and mistrust were all the Veterans had. As we disrespected them in life, we are to this day disrespecting them in death. It is estimated from an 1889 study that 620,000 Americans died during this War.  An updated study suggests that 850,000 had actually died.

We used to recognize their Deaths on a day called “Decoration Day.” The stories say that slaves began this tradition by giving each dead Northern soldier his own grave, then placing flowers on the graves in appreciation for their sacrifice in freeing all slaves. Today we call it Memorial Day. It is supposed to be a day of mourning for ALL war Veterans, but shamefully, many Businesses/Corporations throughout this country have manipulated “Memorial Day” as a marketing tool to sell discounted items from homes and cars to couches and mattresses.  We promote three-day vacation packages or family trips for all these “happy Americans’ to go enjoy themselves on what is supposed to be a Solemn Day of Remembrance. Our government has made it a “day of convenience” by making it part of a three-day weekend, when out of respect, this day should stand alone as a day of mourning for a sacrifice many Americans can never comprehend. A day when all Veterans, who died in battle, should be given just a few minutes of our time, in thought and prayer. Perhaps our selfish government could have set the standards of ethical and moral levels a lot higher. Perhaps we need to consider where we as a people have failed in our efforts to educate and discipline an apathetic and self-serving government.  Why have sincerity and simplicity become so hard to practice in today’s America?

**It should be noted that the Federal Gov’t. did not recognize nor grant federal benefits to the Southern soldiers (of the Civil War) as war Veterans until 1958!! There was only one (1) Civil War survivor left at that time.

Why do these good soldiers keep fighting for us?? We don’t deserve them.

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  1. Mr. Pastore,

    Thank you for this history lesson! Shamefully, I must admit that I knew NOTHING of this history of our Veterans. You are correct, sir, WE DON’T DESERVE THEM!

    I am still livid and ashamed reading about Our Veterans dying in VA hospital while awaiting treatment in America!

    [Sidebar] Thursday evening they had a report on TV showing the mayor of San Antonio who was very upset with the military dumping the children at a facility. He said they were diseased with lice & scabies. However, the contractors hired @ $18 per hr. to watch these children hid their faces from the camera. Really, a little late to be ashamed! Question, who gave that order to transport these children here, and why?

    Sorry for the rant, but we are not taking care of OUR Own Veterans in AMERICA, and we are going to give medical care to foreign children! Press #1 for English.

    Thank you again, Mr. Pastore, and I look forward to reading part 2.