Veterans: Would The Real Wounded Warriors Please Stand Up!

I was a pacifist, and then I was a warist. I believed that war was necessary in order to rid the world of evil, but now I think I have moved full circle back to pacifist. In the process, I have become somewhat resentful, certainly not toward the soldiers, but definitely toward the ambivalence of the military and the politicians that sign mortality and wound certificates without even an ounce of compassion.

When the media talks about Afghanistan and Iraq, too often the same faulty statistics are offered concerning deaths. Death is a sacrifice. Death has lost its moral compass. But rarely does the media talk about the wounded, the number wounded, the magnitude of the wounded and the unbelievably intense trauma that is inflicted on those lives – forever!

We talk about the drones, how they have eclipsed reality by giving the deaths and bombings a surreal existence. But I think war has become surreal. It is televised and we don’t blink, we don’t cry, we just change the channel.

What are the wounded statistics? Interestingly, the military does not keep a tally. I imagine that is a choice. For if the tally were talked about more, it would show a reality that we would rather quash. My father, a Colonel in WWII who led a tank battalion, never spoke of the war – ever. I understand why. Because bringing it to the surface would be reliving it again and it was so enormously horrific, he wasn’t sure he could survive mentally.  But his horrors didn’t end there, he was an officer in the Nevada nuclear tests, and as an officer, required to stand at full attention while observing the fallout. He became a casualty of that test.

I recently read the article of the Iraq vet who deployed 6 times, 2 with his dog. They both suffered from the war, he with traumatic brain injuries and PTSD, the dog with PTSD. But they kept each other together, that is, until the dog was shot and killed in Powell, Wyoming. What will he do without his dog? The last link to a world gone completely crazy.

Of the 1.5 million men and women deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan, outside of the military statistics, the estimate of wounded is upwards of half a million – or one third. A list of the injuries is cataclysmic: traumatic brain injury, hearing loss, breathing disorders, loss of limbs, chronic pain, heart damage, lung damage, Leishmaniasis, a parasitic disease caused by the bite of a sand fly native to the Middle East, which causes liver damage, spleen damage, and ultimately death, bladder, kidney and genitalia injuries, neuroendocrine damage, constrictive bronchitis, tumors, lymphoma, the list is most certainly endless.

And yet, we barely bat an eye…  Their lives will never be the same. Because they fought in a war. Their purpose? You and I.

But it isn’t just a lack of empathy for our soldiers, the attitude extends everywhere in some kind of odd self entitlement in which we expect their submission and renunciation of their lives for ours.  Fire fighters and law enforcement officials sacrifice continually, and we simply accept that is their duty while appreciation is rarely forth-coming. While the death rate for these civil servants is low on average, the injury rate is high. In 2013, nearly 64,000 firefighters were injured while on duty, and over 49,000 police officers. So next time you think about Black Lives Matter, consider Soldiers lives, Firefighters lives, and the lives and injuries inflicted on our law enforcement, because death isn’t the only marker of forfeiting your life. Just ask the ones who can no longer live the life they once did…

Waiting for healthcare from a VA system that is broken. Living off a stipend. Where is the respect? The honor? The glory for all they have actually DONE? Their contribution? How horribly wrong is it to focus on a color instead of an action! Why are we so righteous about a color instead of the men and women who serve us, die for us, and face heinous injuries on our behalf?

I recently had a confrontational commentator argue that a system that is in vital disrepair is not at fault because every large institution is broken to some degree and therefore the victims, (children in this case we argued), should just be thankful for what they get. Instead he felt it necessary to attack my values. Really? So how many casualties of a system do there need to be before we have empathy, before we say, it’s too much? Have we really become so apathetic?

VA healthcare is not free to veterans. In fact, in the case of Army Ranger Bessler, his medical care for the brain injury was not tended to by the VA at all. It was Governor Rick Perry who stepped up and upon hearing of his plight, offered to help pay for a ‘private treatment program’. Why wasn’t it covered by the VA?

In 2016, the VA budget will be $168.8 billion! The budget has increased 72% since 2009, so where does it all go?  Salaries?  Waste?  Why do veterans fall between the cracks?  We have countless organizations that claim to supplement the VA care. Why? Wounded Warrior is one of the most well known, but it has come under a lot of fire for misrepresentation, a high CEO salary, and an advertising budget that is more important than actually helping the vets. Some vets reported that the ‘help’ they got was a backpack and a water bottle – and that was it.

As an accountant, I thought I’d take a look at Wounded Warriors’ financials:   First, most noteworthy, is the fact that they have over $307 million in assets!   A whole lot of unspent money is not the marker of a charitable charity! Having ripped apart the Clinton Foundation’s ‘program expenses’, let’s see how these guys stand up:

In 2014, the Alumni Association expenses labeled “Warrior Assistance and Support” accounted for

.9% of the total expenditures, matching their ‘supply’ budget and budget for ‘Membership Fees’.

The largest portion of the budget was spent on “Salaries and Compensation”, followed by “Media”, followed by

‘Meetings and Events’. Even under their Program entitled “Combat Stress Recovery”, the expense apportioned to

‘Warrior Assistance’ was even more feeble coming in at .2%!

Total Warrior expenses for all Functional spending amounted to .3% or $962,097. By comparison they spent $4,344,000 to purchase property and equipment (an asset, not an expense) and $115,000,000 for investments, upping their total investment portfolio to just under $250,000,000.

So who is the real casualty here; Black Lives Matter … or the Real Wounded Warriors?

Will The Real Wounded Warriors PLEASE STAND UP!

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