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Sunday, September 03, 2006

Veterans Issues: THE GOOD SOLDIER

Houston Chronicle editorial praises former Senator Max Cleland

Via: Larry Scott
VA Watchdog
September 3, 2006

The good soldier

Former Sen. Max Cleland shows the price that veterans pay, during combat and after.

Former U.S. Sen. Max Cleland (D-GA), is a living embodiment of what Americans owe veterans. Having lost three limbs in Vietnam, Cleland now bluntly, bodily and effectively advocates for fellow soldiers. Last week, in his latest act of public service, he announced he is being treated for PTSD. Though Cleland gave few details, he told the Associated Press he hoped his candor would encourage other veterans to get help.

PTSD, which is often commingled with depression, can manifest itself years after a trauma in anxiety, hypervigilance and flashbacks. The Dept of VA last year reported that PTSD cases rose from 120,265 in 1999 to 215,871 in 2004.

Cleland's original trauma presumably occured in the 1970s, when the decorated veteran served in Vietnam. But Cleland exemplifies the reality that war wounds, both physical and psychological, may never fully heal.

Yet Cleland is also a tonic example that disability should not exclude most Americans from public service. Since Vietnam, Cleland has plunged into the political fray, improving veterans' shoddy benefits as the VA administrator under jimmy Carter, serving in the U.S. Senate and supporting presidential candidate John Kerry and Iraq war critic Rep. John Murtha (D-PA).

Cleland surely knew politics was rough. Yet his honorable public work has exposed a SAVAGE STREAK IN REPUBLICAN POLITICAL OPERATIVES AND IN SOME ORDINARY AMERICANS. During the presidential campaign of 2004 and Cleland's senatorial race in 2002 and, incredibly, after he announced his treatment this month, POLITICAL OPPONENTS WHISPERED AND SOMETIMES BAYED ASPERSIONS ON HIS COURAGE.

The same attackers have maligned the records of other veterans, including U.S. Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), and Murtha. THIS DISGRACEFUL POLITICAL STRATEGY HACKS AT THE VERY QUALITIES AMERICANS ESTEEM IN A CANDIDATE.

President Bush told the American Legion convention in Salt Lake City, Utah, this week that the nation owes veterans more than thanks. WE CERTAINLY OWE THEM THE DECENCY TO REFRAIN FROM DISTORTING THEIR WAR RECORDS.

But these attacks on veterans are also reinforced by American's longstanding unease with paying public debts.

As far back as the 1920s, veterans had to march on Washington to demand unpaid pensions.

Through his physical presence, his advocacy and his fearless discussion of the damage from combat, Max Cleland rightly insists that the debt Americans owe veterans MUST NOT BE DENIED.

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