by Ted Manna
American Reporter Correspondent
November 22, 2007
A THANKSGIVING PROMISE
CASTLE ROCK, Colo. -- When those first Americans bowed their heads in thankful prayer, could they have envisioned the country they were starting? Did they look at some empty seats at their bountiful table, as many Americans will do today, and wonder whether there would ever be a time of peace and good will? Did they forsee a country born of war, their manifest destiny sustained by conflict and conquest?
If they were like parents of every time and place, they looked into their childrens' eyes and vowed to protect and nurture them even if they had to die to do it, setting the stage for a fierce and battle hardened country whose every generation would know war.
The children left behind in those wars, from the French and Indian War, the war of Independence, the War of 1812, the Civil War, the Spanish- American War, The Indian Wars, the Mexican War, WW I and II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, and all the small but deadly clashes leading up to the present War in Iraq, those children still looked at the empty seats and wondered why.
Today, thousands of Americans will be without loved ones when they gather to give thanks for their blessings, good health and prosperity. There will be empty seats and maybe even empty place settings, waiting for an impossibly joyous unexpected reunion. Thousands of our sons and daughters, fathers and mothers, will celebrate the quintessential American holiday in harm's way. Many more thousands will be trying to deal with horrific physical and mental trauma.
Hopefully, their confidence that their country will take care of its own, provide the care and treatment needed and restore their shattered lives, will sustain them, and the knowledge that their sacrifice will not be forgotten will comfort them.
The agency tasked by the government to provide that care is the cabinet level Department of Veterans Affairs, servicing potentially 70 million veterans, family members and survivors of veterans, almost a quarter of this country's population. Unfortunately, that care can become a political football when funding is held up for unrelated reasons, like the present debate in Congress over funding for the War in Iraq.
According to Rafael Noboa, a sub-contractor hired by the VA to work with permanent and totally disabled veterans and an Iraq war veteran himself, "there is an absolute failure by our political leadership to properly care for veterans both during and after their oa service to this country."
"We have asked these men and women to put everything on the line, so the least that we owe them when they come home, when they take off that uniform for the last time, is that we take care of them from point A to point Z," Noboa said. "The reason we have delays in processing claims and funds held upis because of political manuvering on Capitol Hill where the Democrats are trying extricate us from the war and the Republicans holding up the appropriations bills.
"The people who work for the VA are tireless in trying to get benefits for veterans, but we are stretched too thin because the money is being spent on the war."
While most Presidential candidates have decried the inadequate treatment of returning veterans from this latest war, Noboa thinks Republican candidates have not done enough to influence their own party to press forward on appropriations bills.
"We have not learned from the lessons of history," he said. "We deluded ourselves into thinking there wasn"t going to be any cost for this war. I see the after-effects."
Noboa, a sergeant who saw combat as a foward observer for an infantry battalion, thinks the holiday makes him appreciate "just being alive," but also reminds him of a feeling of being a "breed apart."
Noboa said he thought extended tours and higher age limits will contribute to more family-oriented care issues.
The toll on mothers, fathers and children of the war's casualities are still adding up. Unless it who has happened to you, you cannot imagine the human cost. If you are a child, you cannot begin to imagine what it means when they tell you your Mom or Dad is never coming home, that you will never see him or her again. That knowledge, that realization, will come painfully so on.
On this day of giving thanks, I would like to ask the world to think of the children. I would like to send a message to the forgotten children, the ones who will never feel their mother's embrace again or their father's strength.
It's okay to cry. I know you cannot know what the loss of Mom or Dad means. You will not know that until much later. But there are other people, grown-ups, around. They will go out of their way to try to make you feel better and some of them will always be there. There will be someone to stand proud when they see your accomplishments and someone to prop you up when you need it. You are not alone, even when on those first horrible nights you wake up choking, sobbing, wondering why.
It's not your fault. There was nothing you could have done. That smothering, suffocating weight will go away soon, the sooner to be replaced by the happiest memories of your life. You will never forget, but some of the hurt will diminish enough so you can remember.
You will be stronger, maybe a better person. I know that doesn't mean anything right now, when the days pass in denial, daylight a false hope. The nights are the hardest. You can always talk to Mom or Dad. I believe parents who have passed watch out for their young children more than if they were alive. You might stumble but the damage will be minor. You will have more good luck than bad.
Dad (or Mom) is a hero. You are loved more than any other person on the face of this earth. You wear the mantle of courage, tested in the fires of battle, tempered by a sorrow and a longing so deep it feels like it will swallow you whole. Your country salutes your Mom or your Dad. The world salutes you.
AR Correspondent Ted Manna lost both his parents a young boy.