Keeping priorities straight with veterans

Friday, November 9, 2012

Bob Kerrey's status as a former Navy Seal and a winner of the Medal of Honor weren't enough to overcome voters' reservations about his political leanings, loyalty to the state and other questions.

But the former governor, seeking a return engagement in the Senate, did make a good point in one of his television ads, one that didn't question his opponent's dealings with her neighbors.

During the TV ad, titled "Military Service," Kerrey pointed out that for the first time neither presidential candidate had military service on his resumé, a trait shared by 80 percent of Congress.

That's important, he said, since it is Congress and the president who decide when and where our military personnel will risk their lives to defend our national interests. And, it's Congress and the president who decide how well military personnel, especially those disabled in the line of duty, are taken care of when they return.

It's not surprising that more and more of our civilian leaders lack military experience, since the draft was ended in 1973 and we've had an all-volunteer military ever since. While the wealthy have always found ways to avoid military service if they want to, the all-volunteer military draws a disproportionate number of economically disadvantaged people in search of a job and a chance for a college education.

And, it seems to us to be much easier to send an all-volunteer force into harm's way than to send draftees pulled away from their lives and families against their will.

On this Veterans Day, traditionally celebrated this Nov. 11 Sunday and officially on Monday, Nov. 12, let's pay tribute to ALL those who have answered the call of duty to their country, whether through the draft or as volunteers.

According to the latest figure from the U.S. Census, there were 21.5 million military veterans in the United States in 2011. Some 1.6 million of them were females, 2.3 million were black, 1.2 million were Hispanic, 264,695 were Asian, 153,223 were American Indian or Alaska Native, 27,469 were Native Hawaiians or other Pacific Islanders and 17.2 million were non Hispanic white.

Some 9.2 million of them are 65 or older, 1.8 mllion were younger than 35. Serving in the Vietnam era were 7.5 million veterans, 5.1 million during the Gulf War, 1.8 million in World War II and 2.4 million in the Korean Way, and 5.4 million in peacetime.

While we're honoring them for their service, let's re-examine our national priorities to make sure we ask them to risk their lives and give up their best years only in order the achieve the most important of national interests.

Watch Kerrey's ad here.

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