Veterans are tired. They are tired of a system that no longer listens to them, tired of longer deployments, tired of a medical system that takes days or months to respond. I have buried more friends to drug overdoses, drunk driving, and suicide than during my deployment to Iraq.
2012 military suicides surpassed military combat deaths in Iraq and
Afghanistan. We hear stories about how even after Congress made a law
to stop the military from kicking out members with mental health
issues, the Army discharged more than 22,000 soldiers suffering from
TBI or PTSD. We see veterans stripped of their GI Bill benefits,
stripped of their rights to use the VA, and unable to find a job if
they were deprived of an honorable discharge.
members of Congress give speeches and implore the American population
to support the troops, but nothing changes. I see my brothers and
sisters suffering from a high unemployment rate, high rates of
suicide, and homelessness. Those who stay in the military are
emotionally and physically stretched thin with constant deployments
to war zones.
United States has been directly at war in the Middle East for almost
16 years. Yet, less than three quarters of one percent of the U.S.
population has served in those wars. Washington’s war-making has
fallen on the shoulders of so few. So, we come home to a country that
does not understand us and has almost no reference for where we have
been and what we have done.
hear platitudes from the residents of our hometowns thanking us for
our service, but those residents understand almost nothing about what
our service entailed. We are marched out and honored at every major
sporting event, but if you would have a conversation with the
majority of the fans that are there, you would discover that they
have no idea what they are honoring.
are isolated and revered, meant to be put on a shelf and then taken
down when America needs to be reminded of how great it is.
also see no end to these wars. The last “progressive” president
ran on ending the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan but launched military
operations in Yemen and Libya, and upped the drone assassinations in
Pakistan. His right-wing opponents preach that we should have boots
on the ground in Syria and in Africa.
is no wonder that we see the military and veterans flock to known
“anti-war “candidates, people like Ron Paul. There was fervor for
Ron Paul in 2008; I do not think most veterans understood his
economic policy at all. What appealed to them was the promise of no
more foreign intervention and getting the government out of your
course, none of these Democratic and Republican party politicians
plan to actually bring the troops home. Nor have any of them truly
taken up our most basic needs. Everyone knows on some level that
politicians are liars and celebrate us only when it is convenient to
make a point.
because we remain disconnected from and unheard by the majority of
the American population, because we continue to see ourselves
used as propaganda and see our epidemics of suicide and addiction
ignored, many veterans embraced Trump.
came along and said one thing that brought much of the veteran
community to his side. He went on stage and said, directly, “Veterans
are getting screwed.”
live day in and day out in a society that does not recognize just how
terrible our situation is. So all it took for many to back Trump was
that one loudly proclaimed and very true statement.
has been a lot of good discussion about why many blue-collar workers
in the rust belt were convinced to vote for the billionaire Trump,
but less about why so many veterans did. I believe that it
comes down to not having a strong voice on the left encouraging
veterans to fight for a better future.
collective spirit that is so central to the labor and socialist
movements is intrinsically important to veterans too. The socialist
movement should be a natural political home for those who signed up
for a collective mission for justice but discovered too late that the
wars were not about justice, least of all for them.
and after World War II and the Vietnam War, radicalizing veterans
became central to the leadership of the civil rights, antiwar, and
Chicano and Black liberation movements. Many grew to become leaders
of the socialist movement, as well. What voice do we socialists use
today to show veterans that our movement cares about their struggles,
can make life better for them, and would stop the “nation-building”
and imperialism that is ruining so many lives?
believe that socialists must introduce veterans to our ideals of
working-class democracy, justice, and equality. The movement can show
veterans that there is a way to stop the pain and trauma they
associate with Washington’s “nation-building” projects.
are more choices than military intervention or isolationism.
Socialists can introduce the idea of real internationalism, where we
build global solidarity based on common struggles against the
war-makers in every capitalist capital and every corporate boardroom
around the world. We can tell the history that proves that a workers’
movement can create a society that can really bring peace and
prosperity to their lives.
military taught us how integral it is for each member to do their job
so the mission can be accomplished as a whole. It should be an easy
task for veterans to understand how they can contribute to mass
actions of millions of workers and strikes at the point of production
and transport hubs, actions that could shut down the system, forcing
our demands to be met. The response of a group of veterans to the
needs of the water protectors at Standing Rock shows that this kind
of thinking is in the air.
is the moment for socialists to turn to the discussion in earnest.
Many weary veterans responded to Trump’s one true statement about
their treatment, but we have so many more truths to share. We
understand the economic draft. We know that one should not have to
put oneself in harm’s way just to avoid unemployment and
discrimination due to low income.
refuse to champion a society that trades lousy military benefits for
lifetimes of traumatic brain injury, PTS, and early onset arthritis.
Socialists oppose wars fought for the rich against the interests of
working people at abroad and at home.
are for setting up a society in which the major decisions about war,
peace, jobs, health care, housing, and education are made by working
people themselves. Veterans need to hear this. They have also seen a
lot and have a huge contribution to make to the struggle for this new
>> The article above was written by Mitch USMC 05-09 and is reprinted from Socialist Action.