By Kevin Stoda, lifelong American Educator and Patriot

I came across this recent article and topic on how the U.S. government, the USA military leadership, and Americans in general continue to neglect American veterans—while failing to educate its populace about the real costs of wars.


The articles was in Stars and Stripes and on several NPR news programs. It is entitled, “Brain Wars: How America’s Military is Failing its Wounded”. It was written/compiled by ProPublica’s T. Christian Miller.

A few years back, I wrote a lengthy blog on how the USA always fails its youthful soldiers and then asks the future, current, and older generations to keep paying the costs—over and over. That article was called, “SOME PARENTS OF VETERANS COMING HOME FROM IRAQ AND AFGHANISTAN ARE HAVING TO GIVE UP RETIREMENT TO TAKE CARE OF THEIR BRAVE OFFSPRING.”


My piece was originally a four part piece that I spliced together to create a sense of connectedness—where I, as a lifelong educator—have found society, media, and schools—and even America’s AARP–failing to connect issues properly as costs and burdens of war incapacitate my homeland.

As part of the run-up-to the annual FEAST OF THE HOLY INNOCENTS (December 28), I will reprint the 4 parts in more bite-size pieces. Then I will ask you if things have improved or gotten worse over the past 2 1/2 years, America!


If you do not know what Childermas or the Feast of the Holy Innocents is, just recall that at the time of Jesus’ birth day–as these legends and the Bible note–there were killed 2000-plus children and babies by one King Herod and his military lackeys in and around the town of Bethlehem in Judea.

The day of December 28 is when the mass is under taken and it is a good day to march around military bases and ask soldiers and their family to rethink their life choices. As Americans are part of a tribal family, we need to reflect and educate ourselves to think differently.

This becomes more-and-more pertinent as there has been a war on good educators for the last few decades. (I reveal part of this story in my own biography, but it will revealed in coming weeks as school districts lay off teachers to pay for our war-economy again in 2011.)


In one 2008 from American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) on the burdens that veteran victims of war are importing home to their families, the author, Barry Yeoman, notes that it is “estimated 10,000 recent veterans of these conflicts now depend on their parents for their care. Working unheralded, these parents have quit jobs, shelved retirement plans, and relocated so they can be with their injured sons and daughters. Many have become warriors themselves, fighting to make sure this new wave of injured veterans gets the medical care and rehabilitation it needs.”

In this main human interest tale—which introduced the topic of war burdens falling back on the older generations of America—the AARP author shares the frustrating tale of a women name Cynthia and her son.

In the AARP piece, it was noted that the main character’s son had entered the military only because in the two years prior this signing-up, the economy in her family’s region of the USA was doing so poorly, i.e. jobs were lacking, the young man had little choice.

I understand this.

My own brother joined the navy during the Reagan recessions of the 1980s.

On the other, I came to understand decades ago how many American young unemployed (or underemployed young Americans) will be coming home from America’s endless wars injured –and often injured for the long-term.

I also wonder how many of those still entering national military service in 2010-2011 will feel that between (1) joblessness, (2) entering the U.S. military or (3) joining its private military contractor, signing the recruiter’s paperwork is a no-brainer?

In short, acceptance of a bad American economic system seems to be teaching American youth that they have no option but to die or suffer, like the infamous Lt. Dan in the movie FORREST GUMP.


The AARP article (mentioned above) stated, the “Theater Hospital in Balad, Iraq, has [or had] a 96 percent chance of survival. He or she can sometimes be stateside within 36 hours of the injury. As a result, there are just 6 deaths for every 100 injuries in Iraq and Afghanistan, compared with 28 deaths per 100 in Vietnam, and 38 in World War II, according to Linda Bilmes, a researcher at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government.”

This means that many more vets will be making it home alive-albeit in bad condition in the hot wars America has volunteered to send its sons and daughters into this decade-and for decades to come according to Republican leadership in the White House and in Sen. John McCain’s camp.

A lot of American and international press have shown interest in recent weeks as to the topic of how many mental and brain related injuries Americans will have suffered since 2001, i.e. till all the troops come home, i.e. after all the Wars on Terror end in Afghanistan or wherever. In April 2008, the RAND corporation put out a monograph on psychological problems cause by armed conflict. One recent document was entitled Invisible Wounds of War,” Rand Center for Military Health Policy Research, 2008. http://rand.org/pubs/monographs/MG720/

That RAND monograph declared, “Since October 2001, approximately 1.64 million U.S. troops have been deployed for Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom (OEF/OIF) in Afghanistan and Iraq. Early evidence suggests that the psychological toll of these deployments – many involving prolonged exposure to combat-related stress over multiple rotations – may be disproportionately high compared with the physical injuries of combat. In the face of mounting public concern over post-deployment health care issues confronting OEF/OIF veterans, several task forces, independent review groups, and a Presidential Commission have been convened to examine the care of the war wounded and make recommendations. Concerns have been most recently centered on two combat-related injuries in particular: post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury. With the increasing incidence of suicide and suicide attempts among returning veterans, concern about depression is also on the rise.”
In 2008 that was the case. Since 2009, President Barack Obama has upped-the-anti (overall cost to Americans and other victims of war) by increasing the USA commitment in Afghanistan

Meanwhile, there are other long lasting physical wounds from these Wars on Terror that will become—if they aren’t already– the main cause of stress for families and the soldier’s care-givers for decades to come. There are paralyzed veterans. There are those who have lost eyes and limbs-not to mention certain potential job prospects and earnings in certain areas of the global and US economy.


As many young people did during the Vietnam War-era, I (as I was a high school student) once picked up the then-classic WHEN JOHNNY GETS HIS GONE. JOHNNY was written by the Coloradan, Dalton Trumbo, who was one of the original 10-blacklisted writers in Hollywood history.

Trumbo had written the work, WHEN JOHNNY GETS HIS GONE, in 1939, i.e. prior to America’s entry into WWII. Trumbo later rued his decision to publish it as he came to support the USA-UK-Soviet Union and their fight against fascism in 1941-1945. (Later, Trumbo eventually was sent to jail in the midst of the early 1950s anti-communist hysteria as he later refused to name names or tell on others who had joined the Communist Party during the WWII period-i.e. when the USA and the Soviet Union were allies.)

JOHNNY was later made into a film (1970) during the hey-day of the anti-Vietnam War mobilization in the USA.

According to one recent reviewer, Tom Joad, WHEN JOHNNY GOT HIS GUN “is the story of a young man, who like many others, goes to war because he is told by the leaders of his country to go to war. He is injured in that war as a bomb explodes next to him. He has lost both his legs. Both his arms. His hearing is lost, his eyes cannot see, his mouth cannot speak. He has no face. But, strangely he lives, if it can be called that, in a military hospital. The nurses pump the food into a hole in his stomach, they clean him, and he exists in his own world for years with no real communication with anyone. He then comes to realize he can communicate by Morse Code. By moving the stump of what is left of his body he can communicate to the world in dots and dashes. And finally there were people who understood what he was doing. A message is tapped on his stomach; he is asked “what do you want?” After reflecting on how he can have a meaningful life outside the virtual prison of this hospital, he comes to realize he has a special mission.” http://www.tomjoad.org/johnnygothisgun.htm

I say–if readers want a taste of this book on line–, they should go to this web pages and take some notes (before buying the book): http://www.thirdworldtraveler.com/General/JohnnyGotHisGun.html

One interesting thing about Trumbo’s didactically-well-written anti-war monograph is that it has two main tales:

(1) The horror of war mixed with the sweet memories of youth and family and
(2) a messianic vision of a world where war is over—possibly due to a major global bloodbath of a major war killing off all of us.

As an educator who grew up in the Cold-War era, I can fairly accurately claim in 2010-2011 that most of our American youth do not have a grip on the possibility of global annihilation and the fact that soldiers do not always die in battle (or come home heroes alive).


Turning toward the military industrial complex and those leaders, like the former U.S. President, George W. Bush, and Vice-President, Richard Cheney, who would calmly send thousands or millions to their deaths (or to their dismemberment), the main messianic victim-protagonist in Trumbo’s book JOHNNY, says to American readers and the powers-that-be:

“We are men of peace we are men who work and we want no quarrel. But if you destroy our peace if you take away our work if you try to range us one against the other we will know what to do. If you tell us to make the world safe for democracy we will take you seriously and by god and by Christ we will make it so. We will use the guns you force upon us we will use them to defend our very lives and the menace to our lives does not lie on the other side of a no-mans-land that was set apart without our consent it lies within our own boundaries here and now we have seen it and we know it.”

Unlike the more famous, RED BADGE OF COURAGE by Stephen Crane , which is required reading in American schools (and an important novelette, like JOHNNY), Trumbo’ JOHNNY leaves the readers clearly running away from war, rather than joining in a final battle of potential death, global annihilation, or dismemberment in a long and bloody series of battles that make up longer (so-called endless) wars.

The RED BADGE OF COURAGE is almost always universally read in high schools around the world as an example of American literary genius. This is because schools look to American educators for making such choices. This is where I advocate more globally and important options, such as Trumbo’s JOHNNY for American youth in this generation—and in generations to come. (An alternative might include Ron Kovic’s autobiographical, BORN ON THE 4TH OF JULY.)

In other words, parents and educators across America (and even on DOD bases around the globe) need to begin demand a more balanced view of war in school than they are currently receiving now-from both social studies, history, and in their English courses.


Obviously, another area where both parents and youth need to be educated is in the political economics of war—as well as in political economy and economic financing in general. Such an area of focus in political economy should be on American families and the real costs to any family and the whole societies posed annually by the USA’s dependence on the intelligence & defense industries in the USA and active around the globe–as well as the financial and human costs posed by decisions made by & in life in America’s DOD (Department of Defense).

There are now millions–or even tens of millions of Americans who are rather directly dependent on either the U.S. military or on the intelligence communities for jobs for them–and salaries for their families.

There are many multi-generational military families across the continent (and stationed around the world), such as was the case for the former USA presidential candidate, John McCain, and his father’s war-dependent family. (This was also certainly true for Jim Morrison of the Doors a contemporary of young John McCain. Mr. Mojo ‘Risin was the son of America’s youngest admiral and went to 20-plus different schools before graduating from high school due to his father’s drive to take America into war territory, like in Southeast Asia.)

This means that many generations of Americans have grown up in a military-muscle-flapping world all-their-lives and think relatively little of it. (This nebulous world-view usually only changes when a loved one comes home in a box, severely traumatized, or is dismembered in war. )


Many of you know the legacy of such military families. The image of them was tragically (and comically) portrayed by the figure of Lt. Dan in the film, FORREST GUMP. ( A member of Dan’s family had fought and died in every American War dating back to the mid-18th Century.)

I know fairly well one such multigenerational military family—one who finally persuaded their son to finally signing up for a military career in the midst of 1990s. Let me explain, 8 years earlier that same son had left the military family’s base home in Georgia at 18 and had rebelled against signing up for the Army (and following the path of his parents). That son had no desire to follow the footsteps of his military dependent Ft. Benning family and neighbors.

His family was able to persuade him to do this within a year after the 1991 Gulf War. This was partially—of course–due the George Herbert Walker Bush recession of 1990-1992. (The family was also successful in persuading their rebellious son to join the USA military because of the cultural and educational contexts within which many Americans have been cocooned or embedded for nearly 7 decades, i.e. since WWII. The family refrained, “You have no choice. You have a wife and family to take care of. This is America, for Gods-sake.”)

Now, however, with nearly 96 percent of America’s home-grown victims of war coming home alive from major war-theater hospitals in this epic of history, America’s traditional military parents (and non-military families) of brave- and dependent- American soldiers stationed around the globe must for-the-first time plan to take care of their children who didn’t come home in a box.

That is, both older and younger Americans need to ponder the possibility that they will one day have to take care of their soldier-kids and their soldier-loved ones for years. This will be the case if we refer to head injuries, PTSD, amputations, and other long-term issues.

LESSON VII: Let’s count the costs Americans!

What kind of future do we want for ourselves and children?

The (aforementioned) AARP article ends with a touching tale and photo of Marine Sergeant Shurvon Phillip and his mother, Gail Ulerie, 48. The author reveals, “Before he was injured in Al Anbar, Iraq, Marine Sergeant Shurvon Phillip told his mother, Gail Ulerie, 48, not to worry about his safety. ‘Everything is gonna be all right, Ma,’ he told her. ‘I’m reading my Psalms. ‘“

“Then, in May 2005, Shurvon’s Humvee hit an IED. The resulting brain injuries left him quadriplegic and unable to speak. Gail, an immigrant who came to the States from Trinidad, had to quit her two jobs so she could take care of her 27-year-old son. Initially, the work overwhelmed her. “Lord, I don’t think I can do this,” she cried out one day while bathing Shurvon.

Now the mother, Gail, says,”But today, having coped with his many surgeries and infections.”

Gail, who should be retired, ”has accepted her new life caring for her son. Her time is now spent ferrying Shurvon between hospitals, rehabilitation centers, and their home in Richmond Heights, Ohio. She keeps him clean and helps exercise his arms and legs. And because he is prone to frequent vomiting, she always stays near him to make sure he doesn’t choke. The VA pays for eight hours a day of home health care. The rest of the time Gail is on her own. As many parents in Gail’s situation find, the stress can be crushing. Gail struggles to concentrate; occasionally she binge eats. She wears a hairpiece to cover the thinning hair on her scalp. Without a job, she cannot afford treatment for the cataracts doctors say could blind her. But she continues to resist moving Shurvon into a long-term care facility. ‘Nobody can take care of Shurvon like I can.’”

The more disturbing thing is that many American military-dependent families are not currently physically- and economically- able to take care of their injured veteran offspring over the long haul. The Depression is crushing many already

More importantly, please, Americans!!! From both the perspective of a family and the perspective of real-world economic costs, who will take care of these elderly parents when they too need help?


Invisible Wounds of War,” Rand Center for Military Health Policy Research, 2008. http://rand.org/pubs/monographs/MG720/

Tom Joad, WHEN JOHNNY GOT HIS GUN, http://www.tomjoad.org/johnnygothisgun.htm

Yeoman, Barry, “When Wounded Vets Come Home”. http://www.aarpmagazine.org/family/when_wounded_vets_come_home.html?NLC-WBLTR-CTRL=F1-52308

WHEN JOHNNY GOT HIS GUN, http://www.thirdworldtraveler.com/General/JohnnyGotHisGun.html

About eslkevin

I am a peace educator who has taken time to teach and work in countries such as the USA, Germany, Japan, Nicaragua, Mexico, the UAE, Kuwait, Oman over the past 4 decades.
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  1. eslkevin says:


    Group Seeks School Access

    Ohanian Comment: Every high school in the land should have these alternative recruiters presenting the facts to young people.

    Brent Curtis

    An activist group that claims to engage in “counter recruitment” to discourage teenagers from joining the military is preparing to sue the Rutland School District to gain access to Rutland High School.

    Members of the group, who call themselves Alternatives to Recruitment in the Military, or ARM, said they have been asking school officials for a year to allow them access to the school so they can hand out literature and answer students’ questions.

    “We want kids to know the alternatives, like the peace groups,” member Don Gray of Pittsfield said. “The kids only hear from the recruiters if we’re not there, and they exaggerate their claims. It’s brainwashing by omission.”

    Gray and other ARM members showed off the display they bring into schools during one of the group’s recent meetings at Unitarian Church in Rutland.

    A table in the meeting hall was stacked with pamphlets and papers with titles such as “The Military’s Not Just a Job — It’s Eight Years of Your Life” and “Depleted Uranium: Wonder Weapon or Toxic Hazard?” A poster board on the table was pasted with other information about the draft and how to qualify as a conscientious objector.

    “If schools allow recruiters to talk to students, they need a balance because war and the military are controversial topics,” Gray said.

    The group, made up of less than 20 members, visits a number of schools in the southern part of the state, including high schools in Springfield, Bellows Falls, Brattleboro, Townshend, Randolph, Woodstock, Wilmington and Chester, Gray said.

    Rutland High School is the first school in Rutland County the group has focused its efforts on, he said. However, a year after making the initial request, Gray said school officials still haven’t told them whether they are welcome.

    He said after a meeting with school officials in July, the group had expected an answer within three weeks. No answer has come, so the group is preparing to picket the school and file a lawsuit in federal court demanding access, Gray said.

    “They think this will all go away if they ignore us, but this is a serious issue,” he said.

    School officials said they weren’t trying to stonewall the group.

    Rutland High School principal Peter Folaros said his concern wasn’t with the anti-recruitment group in particular, but with the possibility of opening the door for a slew of political groups that might seek access if ARM were allowed in.

    “I have no problem with the nature of this group, but what’s to stop every other political group out there,” he said. “My concern is to do this in a way that doesn’t create a political circus. I fully anticipate communicating again with this group. We’re not ignoring them.”

    Rutland Superintendent Mary Moran said she had the same concerns.

    While the school allows college recruiters, military recruiters and businesses offering job opportunities to enter the school, Moran said she was concerned about exposing students to groups with political interests.

    “The question in my mind is if they’re not offering employment or college opportunities, is it an appropriate venue and could other groups come in?” she said. “We need to be careful about giving access to the students. Is it our role to give advocacy groups access to the kids? That’s the issue we’re wrestling with.”

    While Rutland school administrators weigh the issue of access, principals from two of the schools that allow ARM to speak with students said the question troubling Folaros and Moran scarcely crossed their minds.

    John Doty, principal of Bellows Falls Union High School, said ARM started coming to his school two years ago after some of his students requested alternative information about military careers.

    “I said ‘Sure, go ahead,'” he said. “If there’s free access for the recruiters, this seems like it’s just the other side of the equation.”

    Like the military recruiters who come to the school, Doty said ARM members never visit more than once a month. Since the group has been coming to the school, he said he hasn’t received any requests from other groups that wanted equal time.

    In Chester, Green Mountain High School principal Carol Gilbert said ARM members paid their first visit to the school Wednesday.

    “They asked at the end of the last school year,” she said. “It was a decision on the part of the School Board to let them in. They ultimately felt there was no reason to deny them access to the high school.”

    Gilbert said she wasn’t concerned about other groups forcing their way into the school.

    “I think we would look at each individual situation the same way we did here before letting anybody in,” she said.

    From a legal standpoint, Gray and Rutland lawyer Jeffrey Taylor, who is providing free legal services to ARM, said federal court precedent dictates that schools must allow equal access to anti-recruitment groups if they allow military recruiters at their schools.

    “There have been several decisions by federal courts supporting equal time and access for alternative recruitment,” Taylor said. “They present additional information so that students can make informed decisions.”

    But William Meub, the Rutland School District’s lawyer, said Taylor’s reading of the law wasn’t accurate.

    Meub said the decision the group has cited quotes a federal 9th Circuit Court decision that ruled that newspapers cannot refuse to print advertisements that oppose the draft.

    “That’s a whole lot different than letting people into schools,” he said. “I think letting them in would open a huge door. If all you need to do is have an organization that has information you want to provide to students, we’d be letting anyone in.”

    Contact Brent Curtis at brent.curtis@rutlandherald.com.

    — Brent Curtis
    Rutland Herald

  2. eslkevin says:

    From the South Bronx to West Point A public school discovers the Army

    The Eagle Academy has a website but no information. The Eagle Academy Foundation website has mission statement, board of directors, and so on. The Wall Street Journal attitude is that poor kids “benefit most” from ROTC training. Clearly, if enough poor youth serve in the military, then rich kids won’t have to.

    by William McGurn

    When it comes to our nation’s future, millions of us will be glued to our television screens looking for clues from the election results. Not Roberto Huie. When it comes to America’s future, this high school senior already knows his part: as a member of the West Point Class of 2015.

    Mr. Huie may not be the kind of kid you think of when you think of our military academies. Part Latino, part African-American, he lives in a South Bronx neighborhood that belongs to the poorest congressional district in the nation. Nevertheless, he has two big things going for him: a mom raising him to be a man—and an all-boys public school teaching him what it means to be a leader.

    All that converged yesterday morning on the second floor of the Eagle Academy for Young Men in the Bronx. There 50 of Mr. Huie’s peers, drawn from the school’s highest-performing students, were seated for what they—and Mr. Huie—all assumed would be another presentation from another college rep. Instead, they watched, captivated, as Army Maj. Michael Burns presented Mr. Huie with a letter from the superintendent of the United States Military Academy congratulating him on his appointment.

    For most American kids, it would be an extraordinary opportunity. For kids like these Eagles, it can be a life-changer. The tragedy is that many of those who stand to benefit most from an ROTC scholarship or an appointment to a service academy have never even thought of the military.[emphasis added]

    Maj. Burns—an African-American West Point alum and U.S. Army pilot who has seen combat in both Iraq and Afghanistan—says there are definitely “some misconceptions and misimpressions” that hurt the Army in the minority community. He notes that these misconceptions are sometimes reflected in the corps of cadets. Last year, he says, West Point had only two minority cadets from all of New York City. The year before that it was zero.

    The Eagle Academy hopes to change that. The Academy was founded in 2004 by the city’s department of education with the help of 100 Black Men, a service organization that puts a special emphasis on education and mentoring. (It is also supported by News Corporation, which owns this newspaper.)

    It’s not a place where they indulge in pity parties. The credo on the wall outside the principal’s office puts it this way: “I am the master of my fate; I am the captain of my soul.”

    As a public school, the Eagle Academy is open to all comers. Its location, however, means there are no white students. Achievement, the staff drum into these young men, is open to all those who work hard and set high standards. Mr. Huie certainly did. Now he’s the first Eagle accepted by a U.S. military academy.

    The school believes that many more might benefit from opportunities the military offers. To that end, Eagle had planned to offer Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps this school year. Notwithstanding the obvious military component of JROTC—all branches of the service have a program—its focus is citizenship, service and leadership. In the 1990s, Colin Powell, then chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, effectively doubled the program, calling it a “social bargain.”

    Today more than 450,000 kids at more than 3,000 high schools across the country participate. Unfortunately, New York City’s budget cuts meant the Eagle Academy couldn’t come up with its half of the money needed for a JROTC instructor. They’re still hoping for a donor.

    When asked why the Eagle Academy is so keen to sign up, the school’s director of college and career-planning, Donald Ruff, says it’s “because our values so clearly overlap.” In fact, Mr. Ruff says he’s already got a few dozen students asking about JROTC. He imagines more would be interested once it got off the ground.

    Maj. Burns agrees about the benefits of JROTC. Kids in places like the South Bronx, he says, “have more distractions that can derail them than, say, kids in the suburbs.” JROTC is a great way to give these kids a taste of the self-confidence that comes with discipline and achievement, as well as opening their eyes to new opportunities.

    Let’s not stint the patriotism, either. The young people who are choosing the military do so at a time of war. As Maj. Burns and his colleagues know from sad, firsthand experience, war means that good men and women are sent in harm’s way, and some do not live to make the return trip home.

    So I ask Mr. Huie if he’s thought about that as he steps forward to wear the uniform of his country. “I pretty much came to the conclusion that this is the time when the country needs us,” he tells me. “And hopefully I will be ready for the responsibility.”

    Spoken like an Eagle.

    Write to MainStreet@wsj.com

    — William McGurn
    Wall Street Journal

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