Let’s give veterans what they deserve

Veteran Patrick Watson places a wreath at the base of a new Mural Arts Philadelphia piece titled

Veteran Patrick Watson places a wreath at the base of a new Mural Arts Philadelphia piece titled "American Tableau" at the Crescenz Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Philadelphia, Thursday, Nov. 8, 2018. (Matt Rourke/AP Photo)

As we celebrate yet another Veteran’s Day, I’m left to consider all the scandals that have beset America’s veterans in recent years.

In 2014, we learned that the VA hospitals were treating our vets more like enemies than heroes — falsifying records, neglecting their treatment, and in some cases forcing them to wait so long for healthcare that they died before receiving it.

These men and women, who fought to secure our freedoms, died to protect our families, and struggled to uphold the idea of American Democracy, deserved better than that back then. And they still deserve better today.

Our veterans are the heroes who came back from World Wars with the trauma of combat etched on their souls. They came back from Vietnam with the poison of Agent Orange ravaging their bodies. They came back from the battlefields of Afghanistan and Iraq having left their limbs behind.

For all those reasons, America’s veterans should be honored for their sacrifices. Instead, they’re being used as political pawns.

How else to explain the fact that veterans were somehow thrust into the conversation when NFL players like Colin Kaepernick knelt during the National Anthem to protest racism and police brutality? Veterans had nothing to do with it, yet there were those who used our men and women in uniform to deflect from the real message. As a result, we continue to ignore the problem of police brutality, and we still don’t properly honor veterans.

If veterans were a priority, President Donald Trump would’ve made sure the Veterans Administration was spending our money on veterans, and not on a European vacation for former VA Secretary David Shulkin and his wife. If veterans were a top priority, the president would not have tried to replace Shulkin with White House physician, Adm. Ronny Jackson — a man who had never run an agency in his life. If veterans were a priority, we wouldn’t have men and women who’ve fought for this country living on the streets.

But if we are to change the way we treat our veterans, we must first change our mindset concerning the military. Our politicians must realize that our soldiers are not partisan symbols to be used for personal gain. Our military is not a Hollywood prop to be paraded down Pennsylvania Avenue. Our military might is not a weapon to wielded against homeless Central American immigrants.

Our military — and the men and women who serve as its backbone — is much more than any of those things would indicate.

At its core, our military is the very best America has to offer. It is a helping hand when things fall apart. It is warriors with the courage to answer the call of duty. It is children growing up and joining the fight for freedom. It is men and women who lay down their lives so others can achieve their dreams.

That’s why on Veteran’s Day, we should renew our commitment to care for the needs of our warriors, because the people who gave us everything should never want for anything.

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