Support the Troops

Since the beginning of the Iraq conflict, opponents of the war have been accused of not supporting the troops. It’s enough to drive me stark raving mad. Not wanting to send our troops into harm’s way for an unjust war isn’t unsupportive. Wanting to redirect defense spending away from the vacation from reality that is the Star Wars program and toward body armor and armored vehicles isn’t unsupportive. Believing that our troops shouldn’t have to buy body armor on eBay isn’t unsupportive. I respect, admire, and feel gratefully indebted to every man and woman who is willing to risk his or her life for me and every other citizen of this nation. I want them home and safe. I don’t want one more of them blinded, paralyzed, disfigured, or killed. Let’s get this straight – the Left supports the troops.

The question I have is whether our administration feels the same. ABC reports on a growing number of vets of the Iraq conflict whose sacrifices are being gravely dishonored upon their return from the battlefield:

Army Spc. Tyson Johnson III of Mobile, Ala., who lost a kidney in a mortar attack last year in Iraq, was still recovering at Walter Reed Army Medical Center when he received notice from the Pentagon's own collection agency that he owed more than $2,700 because he could not fulfill his full 36-month tour of duty. […]

Johnson now lives in his car. It is where he spends most of his days, all of his nights, in constant pain from his injuries and unwilling to burden his family.


On July 14, 2003, [Staff Sgt. Ryan Kelly] had been on his way to a meeting about rebuilding schools in Iraq when his unarmored Humvee was blown up. A piece of shrapnel the size of a TV remote took his right leg off, below the knee, almost completely, Kelly said.

Kelly attests to receiving excellent medical care at Ward 57, the amputee section of Walter Reed, but said he quickly realized that the military had no real plan for the injured soldiers. Many had to borrow money or depend on charities just to have relatives visit at Walter Reed, Kelly said.


Perhaps as a sign of the grim outlook facing many of these wounded soldiers, Staff Sgt. Peter Damon, a National Guardsman from Brockton, Mass., said he is grateful for being a double amputee.

"Well, in a way, I'm kind of lucky losing both arms because I've been told I'll probably get 100 percent disability," he said. […]

The military fails to provide a lump sum payment for such catastrophic injuries. And Damon still has not heard from the military about what they plan to give in terms of monthly disability payments.

The last time Damon asked about the payments, he was told by the military that his paperwork had been lost.


Staff Sgt. Larry Gill, a National Guardsman from Semmes, Ala., wonders whether his 20 dutiful years of military service have been adequately rewarded.

Last October, Gill injured his left leg when on patrol during a protest outside a mosque in Baghdad. A protester threw a hand grenade which left Gill, a former policeman, with leg intact, though useless. He received a Purple Heart from the military, but no program, plan or proposal of how to make a living in civilian life.

"It's not fair, and I'm not complaining," Gill said. "I'm not whining about it. You know, I just, I just don't think people really understand what we're being faced with. […]

"Where are the politicians? Where are the generals?" he asked. "Where are the people that are supposed to take care of me?"


To help these neglected soldiers, [Gen. Franklin "Buster" Hagenbeck, a three-star general and the Army's deputy chief of staff for personnel] said, the military created an advocacy program this past April called Disabled Soldier Support System, or DS3. The network is set up to fight for a soldier's benefits and entitlements, ease transition to civilian life, and deal with any other problems facing a disabled soldier, according to Hagenbeck.

ABC’s inquires have now ensured that Johnson will not be charged with repaying his enlistment bonus, but that seems the very least they could do for this brave young soldier. Unconscionably, we’re sending a message to these troops that we have no use for them once they are unable to return to the front line.

Kerry often charges that the administration went into Iraq having no plan to win the peace. It appears they had no plan to care for the soldiers, either. That is the epitome of demonstrative non-support of the troops.

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