I see you, blasting that Lee Greenwood song, "God Bless the USA," at your family barbecue in honor of Veterans Day. You are a hypocrite. And so am I. And we should all be ashamed of ourselves. Why? I was up late watching TV recently and Toby Keith's commercial for the Wounded Warrior Project came on. Have you ever heard of this amazing organization? Its "purpose," as stated on its website, is "to raise awareness and enlist the public's aid for the needs of injured service members."
That left me with this question: America, the richest country in the world, housing the largest military in the world, needs the public's assistance in taking care of its own sacred military? Isn't America a country whose citizens hang American flags outside its homes and on its cars? A country that treats the Fourth of July with huge pomp and circumstance? A country that deems you "un-American" for speaking out against an impending war? And the country that claims the troops are overseas "fighting for our freedoms" regardless of that war's justification? If so, why would veterans not be receiving the necessary government help once they return home? Some even after four tours of duty? Where's your anger? Where's your outrage? And there's more.
* According to military.com, there are more than 200,000 homeless veterans on our streets. And now that the Iraq and Afghanistan wars are winding down, thousands more are coming.
* There is a yearlong backlog of 1 million applications for disability benefits for veterans. (And most times, it takes six months for the application to even be seen for the first time.)
* The unemployment rate is higher among veterans, at 9.9 percent, than the national average of 7.7 percent.
* Our VA hospitals are a travesty. ABC News did a report on VA hospitals and found broken-down surgical equipment, examining tables caked with dried blood, patients begging for food and water, and filthy bathrooms splattered with human excrement.
What gives? All I hear about are budget cuts, sequesters, abortion rights and marriage equality. But what about veterans equality ? When I see men and women who have volunteered to serve our country relegated to such a low priority, I want to do something about it. Here are eight proposals. Let's:
* Provide free medical/dental/vision benefits for all veterans for life, prosthetics included.
* Exempt veterans from paying federal and state income taxes for life.
* Provide veterans with a "fair" pension for life.
* Allow veterans to qualify for a house purchase without the need for a down payment and reward them with a "reasonable" mortgage payment soon after discharge.
* Upgrade the quality of VA hospitals to meet a same standard as all U.S. hospitals.
* Pass a new "quota law" that states that all corporations must employ a set percentage of veterans to ensure our service members a well-paying job soon after discharge.
* Allow veterans the option of cashing out if they choose to decline education benefits through the G.I. Bill.
* Protect veterans and families from having their homes foreclosed upon. Ever.
But Danny, who's gonna pay for this? I don't care. That's for the lawmakers and voters to decide. Once it's on the ballot, I dare you to vote them down. But we'd better do something fast. Over the last five years, enlistment numbers for the Army have dropped 28 percent. The Marines are down 17 percent. The Navy has seen a 4 percent drop. Only the Air Force's numbers have increased, up by only 1 percent.
Can we blame potential recruits for changing their minds about the military? Not only has America been involved in wars that most people now deem unnecessary, but now we're also turning our backs on these men and women once they've been involved in combat and return to our shores. That's sad. It's pathetic. And downright embarrassing.
So the next time you pull into a local gas station and a homeless person approaches you for a simple dollar, perhaps you'll think twice. Once in a while you might hand them a $20 bill instead. It could be one of our military veterans. Toby Keith and Lee Greenwood wouldn't expect anything less.
Danny Morrison of Bakersfield is a local radio personality and a sales representative in the building industry. Community Voices is an expanded commentary of 650 to 700 words.