“Supporting the troops” has become synonymous with advocating the war in Iraq, particularly in Republican circles. But do Americans who want the war to end support the troops any less? Those who advocate bringing them home immediately would say that being an advocate for an end to hostilities is the greatest show of support. The anti-war troop-supporters probably see themselves as lifesavers. Supporting the troops, however, need not have anything to do with a stance on the war itself. Supporting the troops can be (and should be) the most non-partisan issue in the American discourse.
I recently conducted several interviews regarding the wounded in Iraq and the medical care of our servicemen and women who are wounded in battle. I also had a chance to view Terry Sanders’ excellent new movie FIGHTING FOR LIFE (www.FightingForLifeTheMovie.com) regarding these very same issues. Watching our soldiers rehab at Walter Reed Army Medical Center was heart-wrenching. But the most moving part of the movie was watching our troops LEAVE Walter Reed. The medical community had done what they could for each brave person and at some point there was no more to be done in an inpatient setting. The soldier returns home.
The medical community moves on to the next patient, but the wounded remain in a sort of suspended reality, trying to learn how to establish a “new normal.” What will life be like being disabled? How will they relate to their families? Certainly more questions than answers exist when they arrive home. Their service was temporary but the cost of their service is permanent.
What support is there for the soldier now? While overseas, the soldier could at least know that he would return to a country that valued his service. He wouldn’t be spit upon—those days are thirty-plus years behind us. It’s nice to return home and not be scorned, but goodwill pays few bills.
Let me suggest a way in which we can clearly and definitively support our troops when they come home, regardless of their physical condition: hire them. Give them a job. Yes, I am advocating discriminatory hiring practices—it’s true. Discriminate in favor of veterans. Nothing could be more supportive of the troops than taking the initiative to care for them, their families and their futures. We can’t replace limbs, sight or lost relationships, but American citizens can provide hope and a future. These brave men and women did their duty. Regardless of why they joined the military, the day came when their Commander-in-Chief called them to service and they responded. They didn’t eschew their commitments. They fought with their spouses over being “more married to the military” and got on a plane. They cried with their children and made promises they couldn’t know if they’d ever be able to keep.
It’s our duty now to help them keep those promises. Do you need a receptionist for your office? Forget the 20-year-old cutie in the little black dress and choose instead the 20-year-old corporal in the little black wheel chair. Make it a priority to interview veterans. Assume first that they’re hired and then make it a priority to find out what it is that would prevent them from doing the job well. I think it’s safe to say they’ve proved their mettle in tough circumstances. They’ve proved their loyalty and ability to work with others. Do you need a team player that can be trained to do anything? Look no further than the Transition Services Office at the nearest military facility.
What better statement for your company than to be able to say, “We REALLY support the troops?” What better way to say thank you on behalf of a grateful nation? When we needed our soldiers to go out on a limb for us, they entered the “how-high” phase of military life. Most of them might be too proud now to ask you for special treatment. It would be a shame if they had to ask.
We invest in what we value and if we truly esteem the higher values–Duty, Honor, Country–demonstrated by our all-volunteer military we should make an investment in their future. Giving a job to a veteran may cost you a little more money—a few extra sick days each year, handicapped accommodations, a little lost productivity–but these are the higher values WE are called to—these are the investments WE can make in America’s future.
A job is only the beginning of finding a new normal but it is an absolute necessity for a veteran trying to earn his keep in society. So, you want to commit to supporting the troops? You want to commit to demonstrating that you value their service, dedication and protection? Then commit to hire values.