WASHINGTON, DC – Today, Representative Jim McDermott announced that he is introducing a bill to create a Commission on Veterans’ Care. The Commission would explore ways to better care for the returning members of our Armed Services, create new ways for active service members and veterans to teach the public about their experiences and establish Memorial Day Weekend of 2014 as a national time of acknowledgment and remembrance.
McDermott spoke on the House Floor about the human cost of war and our Nation’s lack of resources to aid veterans, their families and communities in reintegrating to civilian life. “In pre-industrial society, leaders were intimately involved in war itself – often sword in hand,” McDermott explained. “Rituals and ceremonies decommissioned the fighters and made the entire community conscious of the soldiers’ role in this sacrifice.”
Without those rituals, Americans are generally distanced from the realities of combat and veterans often feel isolated. “The agony suffered by many of our veterans is vivid testimony: Twenty-two veterans commit suicide every day. If our society fails to address these emotional and moral issues publicly, soldiers and vets will struggle with them privately. Many of them will lose that struggle and leave us all affected by their loss,” said McDermott.
McDermott collaborated with Karl Marlantes, author of Matterhorn: A Novel of the Vietnam War and What It Is Like To Go To War, and Sebastian Junger, author of War and The Perfect Storm and director of the documentary Restrepo, to outline the scope of the commission and its goals. “On average, we lose more veterans to suicide than to combat,” said Junger, “The prevalence of Post-Traumatic Stress and addiction is overwhelming. We owe them more than what too many come home to find: homelessness, unemployment and prison.”
“It’s not just the soldiers,” said Marlantes. “It’s also about shattered families, disrupted communities and impacts on our medical and legal systems. It’s about all of us. We have a moral obligation to shoulder the responsibility for sending them to fight. We all did that. Our obligations will not end until we end our indifference and truly bring these people home.”
McDermott’s full speech can be viewed below and read here. More information on the Commission can be found here.