As we start this new year, I wanted to share with you some things that will be taking place that you will find interesting and that I might need some help on.
1. I started releasing some editorial opinions (OP-ED's). The first was released in November entitled, Make Decision on Afghanistan Now ( http://www.cantonrep.com/opinion/x1158539608/Make-decision-on-Afghanistan-now ). The first was picked up in the Cleveland Plain Dealer, The Canton Repository and on Across the Country with Bob Dunning on XM radio. The second entitled, Is America Ready for Four More Years of War, I hope will be picked up in national papers as well as in Ohio papers in the next couple of weeks. If you have a topic you would like me to write on please let me know.
Here the latest op-ed for a preview.
OP ED by Scott Warner
Is America Ready for Four More Years of War
The decision has been made and a strategic plan to provide an increase of 34,000 American troops with an additional 7,000 troops from allied forces over an 18 month period. I believe if this surge is executed forcefully, strategically and the troops use all the means they have access to, the Taliban and Al-Qaeda forces will be severely crippled and allow the Afghanistan troops and police forces time to train and take eventual control of these high risk regions.
There are those who have attacked the 18 month time frame and the additional period of US forces stepping down over a total four year period. Initially with the Iraq war, I struggled when timelines where attached to the discussion of a troop surge. However, lack of planning and poor leadership only produced a period of unnecessary police forcing until the surge took place. From my point of view, we have an opportunity to learn from the past and be more bold, forceful, and strategic with the Afghanistan surge and as a result this time line is feasible. I am supporting the President on this decision.
What Does This Mean to America
We will soon be entering into our ninth year of war and as the 17,000 troops are deployed, I question if American’s have a clear understanding of the impact of four more years of war. I call the current wars of Iraq and Afghanistan, The Wars That do not Touch America. Unless you have a loved one serving, or have lost a loved one in the field of battle, these wars do not touch the average American. For the most part, our life styles are business as usual. Furthermore, I question if they even care about the undertaking we are about to take. The privilege of a safe free America and sacrifices of our all volunteer men and women are taken for granted, unappreciated and even minimized. Can you even imagine how a father and mother must feel sending their loved one to war? It is a rare call we are asked to make. Recently, in an interview on the Today Show, Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates stated, “that when a family member enlists the family reenlists.“ That is the experience of my family and families across America who have sons and daughters, fathers and mothers, and brothers and sisters who have to deal with the realities of war and their lives are forever changed. We know the financial costs are outstanding, but President Obama stated in his address at his acceptance of the Nobel Peace Prize, “Still, we are at war, and I'm responsible for the deployment of thousands of young Americans to battle in a distant land. Some will kill, and some will be killed. And so I come here with an acute sense of the costs of armed conflict -- filled with difficult questions about the relationship between war and peace, and our effort to replace one with the other. “
With the reality that we are increasing our troops, we as Americans can expect an increase in casualties as time progresses. It has already been reported that the Muslim extremist are already preparing for the surge by creating improved IED’s (Improvised Explosive Devices).
Life after the Loss
I share my thoughts and observations because I have witnessed there is a disconnect between the American population and the cost of war. This point was emphasized by President Obama as he stated in his Nobel address, “But in many countries, there is a disconnect between the efforts of those who serve and the ambivalence of the broader public. I understand why war is not popular, but I also know this: The belief that peace is desirable is rarely enough to achieve it. Peace requires responsibility. Peace entails sacrifice.”
Since the loss of my son and as the process of grieving begins, my family and families across America have suffered greatly from the cost of war. Issues such as depression and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) have caused many surviving families to take a cocktail of antidepressants, antianxiety and sleeping medications to function on a daily basis. Psychiatrists and counseling become a part of your new life. Finding a new normal is not an easy process. I have witnessed as a result of these consequences, individuals lose their jobs, retire early or are forced into early retirement and lose homes as their employers turn their heads to the long term consequences of war. Why should families who have given so much have to hire and pay thousands of dollars to pay attorneys as they are mocked by disconnected employers and coworkers? Some family member’s succumb to the devastation and chose suicide over life. This is an unexpected, disappointing reality of the life after the loss and sacrifice of war. I share this because I am living this out with my current employer and I am disturbed at the arrogance of our country that life is business as usual. As our President stated, “Peace entails sacrifice.” We have already given the ultimate sacrifice of the blood, sweat and tears of our loved ones.
What is the Solution?
Next of kin who are not a spouse or a child of a veteran do not receive federal support or assistance. Other than any life insurance your loved one may have elected to bequest to you and the government death gratuity there is no or very restricted support. The Gold Star Family (a family who has lost a loved one on the field of battle) are already recognized by the U.S. Department of Defense, but other than that there is no protection for Gold Star families as they move forward from their loss for their jobs, loss of wages, additional health care costs, insurance, and education benefits for those whose child had participated in the GI bill which could be passed on to their other family members. After the attacks of 9/11, the Congress passed the Air Transportation Safety and Stabilization Act, Public Law No. 107-42 (the Act). Among other things, this legislation established the September 11 Victim Compensation Fund of 2001 (VCF or the Fund). The Fund was designed to compensate individuals who were injured or relatives of individuals who were killed in the attacks. For fiscal years (FY) 2002, 2003, and 2004, a total of $5.12 billion was budgeted to compensate the victims and their families. According to the Act, the VCF ended on December 22, 2003; no claims could be filed after that date (from the September 11 Victim Compensation Fund Of 2001 Executive Summary).
Why has similar legislation not been enacted for the families who have sacrificed so much already and continue to sacrifice as they suffer the long term effects of war? I challenge our legislators to listen to the stories of surviving families and develop federal support and assistance for the next of kin. As Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates stated that when a family member enlists the family reenlists; the Congress should provide the support the families need to move forward. I hope as time moves forward and as individuals like myself, the President and our legislators speak out, the community will replace ignorance and arrogance with compassion. My heart already goes out to the families who will lose their loved ones over the next four years. I hope I can be a light of hope to them.
Proud Gold Star Father of Pvt. Heath Warner
KIA, 11/22/2006, Al Anbar, Iraq
2. I am in the process of writing a book. I am going to be posting on a weekly basis what I am writing on. If you are a family member or friend that has a story or memory to share, please pass it along.
3. We are in the process of planning The Pvt. Heath Warner 5K Memorial Run and Family Fun Walk. I will be communicating updates through Heath's website, www.pvtheathwarner.com and my Facebook account.
4. Over the last three years, we have been restoring Heath's car to be the lead car in the race, for parades and car shows. The car will be unveiled in May. Special thanks for Dr. Wraps and 3M for donating the materials and labor for Heath's Hero Car.
5. I have set up a blog, which I hope will catch on! The link for my blog is http://www.scottnwarner.blogspot.com . Please pass along to your friends.