Home of the Brave

10/25/2010 12:05 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Among the standards for judging civilized societies is how they care for those who fight their wars. By this standard, the United States falls considerably short.

Despite the fact the we have a Department of Veterans Affairs that generally provides health, housing, and employment support for past veterans, there are still far too many veterans of Vietnam and now Iraq and Afghanistan in serious trouble. Too many Iraq and Afghanistan veterans, young men and women, are coming back to unemployment lines, homelessness, and illness, both physical and mental. A recent television program featured a community-generated effort to provide assistance to recent veterans in San Diego. More than a thousand veterans came. Almost all were homeless, unemployed, and in need of medical care.

Suicides, including at Fort Carson, Colorado, now represent a small epidemic. Statistics also document very high rates of motorcycle and car crashes and other self-destructive behavior among young veterans. A recent war casualty was in his twelfth rotation in and out of Iraq and Afghanistan. Drug use, spousal abuse, and divorce are all way beyond the ordinary for veterans.

In office, it was always a matter of bitter resentment that elected officials most bellicose and eager for confrontation and conflict were almost always the first to forget about the results of those conflicts and the costs in human lives. Every war resolution ought to require a personal pledge on the part of everyone voting for it, including the president, that they will remain responsible and accountable for its costs, even after they have left office. And, at the very least, all those eager for war ought to be required to personally meet all the coffins coming home.

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