A Memorial Day Tribute To Those Who Serve

It seems as if the United States has been perpetually at war during its existence. Just in the last century, we have fought WWI, WWII, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the Gulf War, the Afghan War and the Iraq War. In between, have been a series of “police” actions in Panama, Grenada, Kosovo and Bosnia, and now Libya.

The Afghan and Iraqi Wars have the distinction of being the two longest wars in our history, with the Afghan War having now lasted more than 10 years. These wars are also unique in that, along with the Gulf War, they have been fought entirely by professional soldiers. As a result, the burden for combat has fallen on the shoulders of a relatively small number of people. To illustrate this point, ten percent of the US population served during Vietnam while approximately one percent has served in Afghanistan and Iraq.

4,441 American soldiers have been killed in Iraq along with 1,575 in Afghanistan. In addition, 43,643 have been wounded in action. Sadly, one of the latest casualties is an Arizona soldier, Pfc. John C. Johnson, who was killed in Afghanistan just this past Friday. To commemorate Pfc. Johnson and all who have served in an American uniform, Democratic Perspective devoted its Memorial Day show to our military veterans. Our co-host, Mike Cosentino, a military veteran from the Vietnam era, interviewed two veterans of our current wars.

Elizabeth Rex is a regular visitor to the Verde Valley and a veteran of Afghanistan who served as a Master of Arms in the Military Police with responsibility for checking the belongings of returning military personnel. “I was responsible for checking everyone’s stuff to make sure that bugs and weapons didn’t get through, she said.” She says she is proud to have worked with all branches of the military, including the Air Force, Army, Marines, Navy, even the Coast Guard. “It amazes me how all the branches come together in serving our country,” she said.

A resident of the Verde Valley, Harry Moore served three tours of duty with the military – at Afghanistan’s Bagram Air Base in 2003-04, Iraq in 2005-06 and Kuwait for the drawdown of combat troops in 2009-10. He then served another tour as a private contractor for KBR, the Halliburton subsidiary which provides services to the military overseas. When asked about the high number of suicides in the military, Moore said, “The military has taken steps to help soldiers and veterans. There’s a program called ACE (Ask, Care & Escort) to identify those who are not doing so well. You talk to a combat psychologist when you’re deployed and when you come back. The questioning is very intense for those going back for another deployment. They want to know how you’re doing and how your family is doing,” he continued.

In addition, both spoke positively about the treatment shown to returning soldiers now as compared to those returning from Vietnam. “The treatment coming back is awesome,” said Harry. “People go out of their way to thank you.” And Elizabeth said her group was welcomed back with a fire hose creating an arch of water over the plane after it landed. “People were wonderful,” she said. “You really can’t compare today with the Vietnam era. I’ve heard Vietnam vets were not treated nicely when they came back home. Now it’s very different. We’re accepted well. That’s huge.”

To learn more about veteran’s issues, visit the following Web sites:

Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America
Arizona Department of Veterans’ Services
Arizona Democratic Veterans Caucus

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