Sunday, May 27, 2012

Memorial Day--Remember the Fallen

There is a story in Sunday's New York Times about a group of artists that recently visited Walter Reed Hospital where so many of our wounded men and women are trying to mend and begin life again after coming home from Iraq and Afghanistan. These artists had two hours to sketch and draw those who agreed to be subjects for this project. Some of their work can be seen in Sunday's paper.

 One soldier spoke from his bed: "It is important for people to really see what we go through. I have scars all over my body. I have a colostomy bag. I have one leg, and it's only about 10 inches. This is what happens when you send your men off to war."

On this Memorial Day it is time once again for us to remember our fallen. Since this war began CNN reports we have lost over 7,500 men and women. They came from 20 Countries--but most of them came from the United States. To date 4,802 US and Coalition casualties have been reported in Iraq. There have also been 16,024 wounded. In Afghanistan we have lost 2,991 in this war and 16,024 have come home wounded. The average age of these casualties and wounded were 20-23 years old. To see those portraits of war you can read the article or simply view the powerful renderings of pain and war at

The most disturbing story I have read this week-end about our troops is found in an editorial in The Times. The article reports that the Department of Defense and Veterans Affairs have repeatedly promised to do a better job of handling the medical evaluations of wounded and disabled service members. Instead, the article says, they are doing worse. This is bureaucracy at its lowest level. Just the processing of disability cases has gone from an average wait period of 394 days for active duty troops and 420 days for National Guard members and reservists. In 2010 32% of active-duty troops and 37% of Guard and Reserve troops completed evaluations and received benefits within established guidelines. Last year--those figures fell to a dismal 19% and 18%. Read the story and weep. To march and wave flags this week-end is simply not enough.

Bill Coffin once said: "There are three kinds of patriots, two bad, one good. The bad ones are the uncritical lovers and the loveless critics. Good patriots carry on a lover's quarrel with their country, a reflection of God's lover's quarrel with all the world."
                       --William Sloane Coffin, Credo

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