Monday, November 11, 2013

Veterans Day: Lest We Forget - Yet So Many Do

In the 11th hour on the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918, in a railroad car in northern France, an armistice was signed between the Allies and Germany ending all major hostilities of World War I.  A year later, Woodrow Wilson proclaimed November 11th Armistice Day in the United States.  "To us in America, the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country's service..."

In 1945, Ray Weeks, a WWII veteran from Alabama, suggested Armistice Day be a day to celebrate all veterans, not just those who died in WWI.  He petitioned then General Eisenhower, who supported the notion.  Nine years later, in June 1954, now President Eisenhower signed into law Veterans Day, a day to celebrate and recognize all those past and present, who have served or are serving our nation.

Veterans Day allows us the platform and the opportunity to thank our service men and women for their sacrifice in keeping out country free.  While this debt of gratitude should not be reserved for just one day a year, the 11th of November does remind us all, amid the hurried world that is our country, to take a moment to thank a Veteran.

So today, while mayors, governors and our President lay wreaths and give speeches to honor our veterans, I think it's also important to raise the flag of hypocrisy in the words they speak.  Don't give me fukkin' bullshit words!!  Give me action!!  If they want to honor our veterans, I know EXACTLY where they can start.

James Blakely in his rent-free apartment in Brooklyn,
courtesy of the Black Veterans for Justice

Two years ago, 91 year old James Blakely, a WWII Navy vet who survived the bombings at Pearl Harbor aboard the USS St. Louis and went on to serve in Iwo Jima and Guadalcanal was living in a rusted out trailer in a scrap yard in Brooklyn.  After losing his home in 2006 when his wife died, he lived in his car for the better part of 5 years, until he was brutally mugged in 2011 and a kind soul allowed him to start sleeping in the junkyard trailer.  Is it not a travesty that while Mr. Blakely was struggling to get by, living on the streets with little to no assistance from his government, illegal immigrants, including President Obama's relatives, were getting subsidized housing and cheap education?  Kinda makes me sick.

Recent numbers from the National Coalition of Homeless Veterans estimate that over 62,000 veterans are homeless on any given night in the United States.  Approximately 12,000 veterans of Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom were homeless in 2010.  That same year, our government gave out over $15 BILLION DOLLARS in economic and military aid to Afghanistan and Iraq.  So while 12,000 American heroes who paid the price with their service to this country in the heat and sands of Afghanistan and Iraq are struggling to find a loaf of bread or a cardboard roof, our government is rebuilding two countries that could give a shit less if the United States disappeared from the globe.  Overall, in FY2010, the United States has doled out over $51 billion dollars in foreign aid around the globe while our veterans have been ignored.  Sure, there are several VA homelessness programs that have been successful in finding housing for thousands of veterans.  But until EVERY vet is given an apartment and a pension,  proper mental health care and appropriate healthcare, not another fukkin' dime should make its way overseas!!

The good news for Mr. Blakely is that his story became public in 2012 in a piece in the New York Daily News.  When the Black Veterans for Justice saw the story, they jumped into action and found this hero a rent-free apartment with daily meals delivered.  To his credit and true to the spirit of the American soldier, James Blakely holds no grudges and carries no bitterness toward the government that has done him no favors.  He was simply doing his job and expects nothing in return.  This is his country and he is grateful to have had the opportunity to serve.  Thank you

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