I saw a television commercial for the Wounded Warriors Project last evening and it prompted me to think about what a great charity it is. In fiscal year 2012 alone, they brought in $155 million to help support U.S. soldiers through programs and services delivered to severely injured service members during the time between active duty and transition to civilian life. The commercial was particularly moving, as it depicted a seriously injured soldier named "Corey" who was wounded when his humvee was blown up. "My dad is a superhero," his young daughter says. "I read to him. When I see my dad smile, I'm happy." From the ad, it was clear that Corey faced a long road of rehabilitation and that he was fortunate to have not just a loving family, but the Wounded Warrior Project there to support him.
The Wounded Warrior Project is not alone. There are many charities that do great work to serve our nation's heroes. Just last week we saw The Fisher House step up to assume the bereavement-related expenses of the families of 26 American soldiers killed in the line of duty. The Fisher House did so because the Defense Department failed to bear this mandated expense in the face of the government shutdown. Somehow the government could see past the shutdown to open the National Mall for an immigration rally, but could not see to it that the debt we owe these soldiers would be addressed.
It got me to thinking: the United States has overspent its budget (which in 2013 is nearly $4 trillion) by an unfathomable $17,000,000,000,000. And in all that spending, we've come up short in providing adequate support to our returning combat soldiers. How could they have possibly gotten short-changed when such an enormous figure has been spent by our government?
One hundred and forty-eight years ago, Abraham Lincoln, in his second inaugural, preached the need for a grateful nation to honor those who fought its battles. "Let us strive on," he said, "to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan." Nevertheless, we've not taken heed to Lincoln's calling, and instead substitute platitudes about our appreciation for our troops for funding and real accountability in Washington.
The charitable organization Disabled American Veterans (DAV) reports that "in 15 of the previous 16 years, the final, full-year appropriations for VA have been approved an average of 75 days late after the start of a fiscal year. For nearly a quarter of a century, final VA appropriations have been late -- averaging nearly two months in 21 of the past 24 years." Worse still, DAV's National Legislative Director Joseph Violante reported that "new construction for VA has been underfunded for a decade." Those buildings that do exist are, on average, 60 years old, reports the DAV.
Near the end of the Wounded Warrior Project's commercial, Corey, the injured soldier, is seen holding onto his young daughter as she helps him across the room. "Sometimes I help my dad walk. He puts his hands on my shoulders." I can't help but think that it is all of our shoulders that Corey should be leaning on. In this age of reckless and ballooning entitlement spending, it is equal parts puzzling and dismaying that we as a nation have put so little emphasis on caring for the needs of the bravest and most patriotic among us.