Monday, April 11, 2011

Veterans issues

The Houston Chronicle reports that there were 468 reported military suicides in 2010 and that Afghanistan and Iraq War veteran Clay Hunt took his own life March 31, 2011: "As reported by the Chronicle's Lindsay Wise, Hunt, who had been active in suicide prevention efforts, had a hard time adjusting to civilian life after his discharge in 2009. He dropped out of college, divorced and had suicidal thoughts. Things were looking up in recent months. He moved back to Houston, found a job and received medication for his depression and PTSD. But that didn't save him." Melissa Evans (Daily Breeze) adds, "The Texas native helped found a Santa Monica nonprofit called Team Rubicon, which deploys volunteers and resources in the wake of natural disasters around the world. He also had been involved in Ride2Recovery, a Calabasas-based organization that holds bike rides across the country to connect veterans. The decision to begin Team Rubicon and travel to Haiti within 24 hours of the country's devastating earthquake in January 2010 was spur of the moment, said Jake Wood, a close friend who served with Hunt in the 2nd Battalion, 7th Regiment of the U.S. Marine Corps." Team Rubicon president Jake Wood noted:

Clay battled the demons of depression; our shared experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan only served to exacerbate those burdens. Clay was, above all, a brother, confidant, and loyal friend. His goal in life was to serve others and move our world towards the vision that he had for it. A vision where war wasn’t necessary and race, creed and class were nonexistent.
Clay's experiences with TR moved our organization in a new direction; a direction that focused on the value we brought to our nation’s veterans. This is a direction that cannot, and will not, be lost on us now. It is more important than ever to honor his legacy by ensuring that no veteran ever feels the pain of transition as Clay did.
For the time being let us mourn. My heart is heavy with this loss and my soul aches with our inability to have supported him.

Meanwhile the Democrats on the House Veterans Affairs Committee note:

Washington, D.C. - Ranking Democratic Member of the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs Bob Filner reintroduced legislation that would further the goal of ending veteran homelessness in 5 years.
"We know the Department of Veterans Affairs has many programs to address currently homeless veterans, and they do a great job. However, the most important piece to ending homelessness among the nation's veteran population is to prevent it in the first place. It is unacceptable that even one of our veterans sleep on the streets or in shelters after risking their lives on behalf of this country. H.R. 806 will go a long way in strengthening our efforts to ultimately end homelessness.
According to recent VA reports, approximately one-third of the adult homeless population served in the Armed Services. Population estimates also suggest that about 131,000 veterans are homeless on any given night and perhaps twice as many experience homelessness at some point during the course of a year.
This bill increases funding to successful programs for homeless veterans; requires each VA medical center that provides supporting housing services to provide housing counselors; requries housing counselors to conduct landlord research; strengthens permanent housing programs, and pays special interest to the needs of homeless women veterans and homeless veterans with children.

Nok-Noi Ricker (Bangor Daily News) reports that veterans were among those participating in Saturday's Bangor, Maine rally:

Ryan Tipping-Spitz, of the Maine People's Alliance, said the cost to Maine taxpayers for our country’s involvement in Iraq alone is staggering.
"The price tag in Iraq has risen while our programs here in Maine continue to struggle for even basic levels of funding,” he said. “Taxpayers in the state of Maine have paid $2.2 billion" since 2003.
If that money had stayed in the U.S., "we could be ensuring a safe, healthy and prosperous America at home with secure safety nets and assistance programs to any and all that need them in these uncertain times," Tipping-Spitz said.

Jane Fonda notes the passing of Sidney Lumet. (Starting with Elizabeth Taylor last month, I'm not writing about death unless it's Iraq or Iraq War veterans. That has to be covered here. Other deaths don't have to be. I'm not good around death and I don't enjoy noting deaths and am not going to rip myself apart to do so each morning unless it's Iraq-related.) She also blogs about receiving the Anne Marie Stass Ally Award last night at the Stonewall Democratic Club (Los Angeles chapter) at the 2011 Stoney Awards. Congratulations to her on a well deserved award. When many public figures were too 'nervous' to speak out for LGBT rights, Jane was happy to do so and to speak and march. Her committment to the LGBT community is long standing and predates the AIDS epidemic which brought many others on board with the issue. Again, it was a well deserved award. Bonnie notes Isaiah's The World Today Just Nuts "Disappointment you can believe in!" went up last night. Today on Law and Disorder Radio (begins broadcasting at 9:00 am EST on WBAI and around the country throughout the week), Michael Ratner, Heidi Boghosian and Michael S. Smith speak with Phil Weiss about The Goldstone Report and with the Coalition for the Homeless' Patrick Markee about rent laws.

We'll close with this from Sherwood Ross' "CUTS IN PENTAGON SPENDING POSSIBLE, AUTHORITIES SAY" (Veterans Today):

Americans can begin to hope that the current recession, coupled with the politics of debt reduction in Washington, may yet result in cuts in that runaway Pentagon budget, The Nation magazine says in its April 11th issue.
“War-weary Americans have turned decisively against the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq, and, according to polls, voters support cuts in military spending,” Contributing Editor Robert Dreyfuss writes.
“After 13 consecutive years of growth, between 1998 and 2011, spending on the military has reached an all-time high,” and for 2012 the Pentagon's Robert Gates “is asking Congress to authorize yet another increase, seeking $553 billion, plus an additional $118 billion for Iraq and Afghanistan, for a total of $671 billion,” Dreyfuss writes. Throw in all war spending, homeland defense ($44 billion), Veterans Affairs ($122 billion), interest on military debt ($48 billion) and the war machine is costing the public in excess of $1 trillion a year.
“It's so much money,” Dreyfuss writes, President Obama's own National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform(NCFRR) pointed out the $80 billion the U.S. spends on military R&D alone “surpassed China's entire military budget by more than $10 billion.” Overall, Dreyfuss writes, the U.S. spends as much on military “as the rest of the world combined.”

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