To the Editor,
I know I’m not the only one getting concerned about the unending pleas for money from national veterans organizations. Every night on TV they parade war veterans with missing limbs to a background of weeping parents and spouses. Further, have you noticed that there has been a shift from physical war injuries to PTSD and TBI injuries? Could it be that since the combat in Iraq and Afghanistan has ended, they’re running out of visible product, and the fact that psychological injuries outnumber amputations by three to one?
That may sound a little cold but it’s true. National veterans organizations hire professional fundraisers and marketing companies to raise money. And they take their piece before it goes back to the national veterans organization who also take their administrative costs before any money actually goes to the veteran. A few years back, one of these national veterans organizations, a name all of us know, made headlines they didn’t want to by only using 15 percent of money raised for the actual cause claimed. Another tracked by CNN was 0 percent.
In October 1969, I was wounded in Vietnam. Lost my right leg. Almost lost my right arm, fractured my skull and had multiple fragmentation wounds. At the ripe old age of 22 with a 21-year-old wife who was eight months pregnant here in Rockland County, I could have been the subject for one of those commercials. Somehow with just the help of the US Army and the Department of Veterans Affairs and their caring, professional, and dedicated staff and very supportive friends and relatives, I got back on my feet – foot, whatever.
Don’t get me wrong. I don’t want to discourage anyone from supporting our veterans. But if you wish to donate, give to your local veterans organizations. There are groups here in the County that are staffed by volunteers and 100 cents of your dollar will go to help veterans here that are in need – as opposed to 2 billion dollars raised nationally in the name of veterans with only a portion, sometimes a small portion, going to the veterans.
More than just the money, the real shame of this is making these new warriors an object of pity through cheap theatrics. As a Vietnam veteran we were hated by many but at least we knew where we stood. When it comes right down to it, I’d rather be hated than pitied.
The truly serious wound is what they’re doing to the character of our new veterans. Since they represent such a small number of the population, unlike in the years of the Draft when every family had a veteran, today very few of us even know someone serving in the active military. Therefore, a good deal of the public opinion or general attitude toward these veterans is shaped by what people see are the images being produced by these fund raisers. That is, one to be honored but not relied on because they are either physically or psychologically disabled.
A lot of this is also driven by a guilty society who are in part doing penance for Vietnam. The same folks who hated us are still out there and still feel the same way, but now they’re politically correct. Therefore, they wouldn’t have anything negative to say. Now according to them, they love our new veterans but wouldn’t leave their children alone with them – or give them a job, but “thank you for your service”.
For information on local veterans organizations contact us at:
Jerry Donnellan, Director
Veterans Service Agency of Rockland