American soldiers
July 27, 2009
by Jim O'Leary

I think all Americans felt pretty good when the Obama administration signed into law, as part of The Recovery Act, $1.4 billion dollars to go directly into veterans benefits.

Up until now, the Iraq veterans had not been getting a fair shake. Apart from governmental neglect, it was unfair from the beginning that nobody except those armed forces serving in Iraq and Afghanistan and their families have been asked to make any sacrifices during this time.

It is also a national disgrace that more than 100,000 veterans are homeless, including many Iraq veterans. Just check any homeless shelter and you can see for yourself.

It was different during World War II. Every American family was involved some way or other in the war effort. In total, there were more than25 million Americans who served in the armed forces during World War II.

Now, it is a very small percentage of our population who is in the Army. In World War II, the entire country reached out to the men in uniform, unlike the way servicemen were treated after the Vietnam War.

If you were in uniform during World War II, you could hitchhike on any highway and the next car would pick you up. You got in free to all major league baseball games. Servicemen were honored everywhere.

When troop trains went through Waverly, we cheered and waved our arms off. Any of our Waverly men who came home on leave got free haircuts, gasoline (even though it was rationed), free meals, and plenty of love.

After the War, the GI Bill even provided housing for married veterans attending college. If you didn’t want to go to college or get a job, there was what was called a “52-20 Club.” That meant you would get $20 a week for an entire year.

For our Waverly guys, not many took advantage of that, but in states like Mississippi and Alabama, that was a powerful amount of money and several veterans lived on it until they got on their feet. Congress leaned over backwards for our veterans.

I think that’s the way it should be. Every American should appreciate our servicemen, even pacifists like myself. I am against the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and for that matter all wars, but not against our kids who risk their lives.

While I believe that warfare is the worst thing that the human race can do, the servicemen themselves aren’t to blame. I had three brothers in World War II. Almost all of my best friends have served in the military even though I was the only boy in our senior class who never went in.