This Time, Let’s Do It Right for Veterans

By Jonathan Zall of Portland, Oregon. Jon is a retired Air Force officer whose duties included 7 years at the Pentagon and who later became a business planning consultant in Washington D.C. He moved to Portland in 2001 and while being an adjunct professor of business, economics and American government at a local college, he is involved in progressive advocacy issues with the Oregon Center for Christian Values.

Dear Blue Oregon Progressives – I count myself in your numbers, but do you count me in yours yet? As a 27-year retired military veteran, now in my third career, I have been involved in veterans’ issues for a long time. Why? Because this isn’t the first time we have gone to war and then have quickly forgotten our troops when they returned. I saw it for the first time 30 years ago as Vietnam ended. In one respect it was worse then, because many citizens also blamed the troops for the failures in South East Asia.

Make no mistake about it fellow Oregonians, our sons and daughters and friends have died and are being wounded, both physically and mentally in Iraq and Afghanistan. And yet… and yet… once again, our returning veterans, now back in our communities, are quickly dropping under the radar – their basic needs for health care, education, jobs, and housing are now being crowded out once again by other priorities.

Now obviously, problems like the economy hit all of us in Oregon, including veterans. Veterans don’t expect you to put themselves in front of these other issues, but they do hope for your awareness and advocacy for their needs, given the special trust you put in them for what they do for the state and the country.

Our Oregon National Guard, Reserves, and Active Duty troops are being stressed to the limit. They are pulling their fair share and more in deployments, with perhaps the biggest deployments from this state yet to come. Fully 1/3rd of returning war vets have mental disorders, including Post–Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and the percentage with lifetime disabilities is higher than in any previous war – because, thankfully, we are so much better at saving lives. Yet the cost for taking care of them will be with us for 50 years or more with many of them.

That’s why it is so important, Progressives, to be especially mindful of your veterans as you mark your ballots. Progressives should know that many, many veterans also believe this country is going the wrong way, and they also want this war to end quickly and responsibly.

And they want your support. Yes, there are many important priorities facing us as we vote – just please don’t forget your fellow Oregonians who proudly serve you, and will continue to do so. Many of you are activists in other areas – now I ask you to also consider what you can do to help your vets from Oregon. Before you send in your ballots, see which Progressive candidates are actively and comprehensively supporting veterans. It’s not hard to figure out. Check out their websites. Become more informed about veterans’ issues. Here are some starting places:

Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America:
Veterans for Common Sense:
VA Watchdog:
Disabled American Veterans:

This time, let’s do it right for veterans. Thanks for listening,

Jonathan Zall
Colonel (Retired), USAF
Portland, Oregon

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    Col. Zall is right-on, and I want to thank him for his leadership and passion.

    He's also one of the Veterans for Merkley, for what it's worth.

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    Thanks, Jon.

    Many wanna-be politicians talk about all of the issues you mentioned and make all sorts of fanciful rhetorical claims.

    The question is: are they just using veterans as political pawns or do they honestly mean what they claim to mean?

    IMHO, a derth of comments on blogs sometimes says a great deal more than many comments do. While it's true that you support Merkley, as Ben pointed out. You never mentioned Merkley nor did you suggest that Blue Oregon progressives ought to vote for him.

    Do Blue Oregon progressive care about the issues or do they only care about winning political battles regardless of what is at stake or who pays the price?

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    Col. Zall - thank you for this timely and critical reminder. So few of us have sacrificed for this war and we MUST not forget those who have given so much. We owe them more than our respect and support - we owe them health care, jobs, housing, and whatever else they need to prosper in the country they fought for.

  • allison (unverified)

    Is there a resource that anyone knows of to score the support of veteran's issues?

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    An anecdotal scorecard is easy enough to come by. Simply look at the campaign websites of everyone in the race (including Smith and Frohnmayer) and see how many actual veterans are willing to support their candidacy.

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    "Simply look at the campaign websites of everyone in the race (including Smith and Frohnmayer) and see how many actual veterans are willing to support their candidacy."

    Give or take those who are on Merkley's list but are actually voting for Novick, as we found out from Sal.

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    Who's Sal? I don't see him on the list of Veterans on Jeff Merkley's website.

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    Sal Peralta, frequent commenter.

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    He's not on the list of veterans supporting Merkley, at least not that I could find.

  • mlw (unverified)

    It's not just a humanitarian impulse. A study of the then-more generous GI Bill showed that the government recovered $7 in increased tax revenues for every $1 spent on veterans' educational benefits. Kudos to Sen. Webb and the others that are including these real costs of war in the pending supplemental. Using supplementals to fund the war hids the real costs.

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    In that case, TJ, you need to be more clear. We're all playing deep, vitriolic inside baseball and, for the average voter/reader, it's not always clear what's going on or even what the heck we're all going on about.

    But this post was about veterans. I apologize for going off-topic and will come back on-topic with this sad note: this recent veteran suicide is just the tip of a ridiculous iceberg. Indeed, the VA seems to have been downplaying an epidemic.

    Just sad. Thoughts?

  • LT (unverified)

    Long before blogs ever existed, there were lots of Vietnam vets who felt the government didn't care about them. And a hardy group of activists (many who opposed the Vietnam War) who fought for better treatment of vets.

    How many here know that Oregon was the 2nd state to pass an Agent Orange bill back in the 1980s (believe it or not, a Dem. Gov. of Texas made them the first state)? Or that a diverse group of Oregon politicians (across the political spectrum ranging from Vic Atiyeh to Mike Kopetski) pushed the envelope about as far as it could go to help disabled vets? It was about HELPING VETS, not winning a primary.

    There have been campaigns where veterans were so thrilled to gain the attention of someone in public life that they were strong volunteers.

    I know a Mom living the next county over who is worried about her son on his 3rd tour of duty---without getting more than a number of weeks home between the 2nd and 3rd tours. But do we here about that sort of thing here? NO! We here about how a vote on an obscure 2003 Oregon House resolution showed Merkley had bad judgement, therefore we should all vote for Novick.

    Here is a reality check question: Suppose many Oregon voters decide Novick is right and give him a stunning victory on May 20, what does that do to help that woman's son? Or the other military families, the unemployed veterans, or the ones facing readjustment problems, housing problems, mental health problems?

    And is the great Steve Novick really talking about these problems with a specific section of his ISSUES devoted to veterans causes? No, they are just part of the whole section on the war.

    There is a promise to take care of veterans because we owe it to them, there is an admirable section on the Wounded Warrior Comm. But we are to believe that vets publicly supporting Merkley are going to vote for Novick based on that kind of support? Yeah, Right! Tell me another one!

    From the beginning I contacted both campaigns about this issue. We should have heard a lot more about it sooner. This is one reason I have said from the beginning that we deserved an inspiring US Senate campaign but that isn't what we got.

    And before anyone says I am a Merkleyite or I'd say Steve's website is perfect, I trust these organizations listed by Col. Zall before I would trust any candidate who is not a combat vet.

    Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America: Veterans for Common Sense: VA Watchdog: Disabled American Veterans:

  • Tom Civiletti (unverified)

    The treatment of military veterans is the US has almost always been shabby, with the post-WWII GI Bill as the high point. World War I veterans even faced the weapons of our own army when they went to DC to demand what had been promised them. The psychological damage to vets who have fought has especially been downplayed.

    This uncaring treatment of military veterans does not reflect a lack of concern or responsibility among the American people, in my opinion. I seldom have heard comments about vets that are not respectful and thankful. It is people in power who are responsible for denying benefits to veterans, the same people who advocated for past wars and want to minimize the apparent cost of military power projection so public approval for new military adventures can be manufactured.

    The reason is simple. If Americans realized the true cost of war, they would resist it unless there was a significant threat to our nation that could not be handled in another way. That attitude would ruin the party for business interests that have used the military like globe-trotting Pinkertons sent off to secure markets, natural resources and cheap labor. It would end the party for military contractors who do what even Jesus would never forgive.

    Without discounting the wages of war: death, destruction of culture, destruction of economy, maiming of body, maiming of mind, maiming of soul, terrible insult to the natural environment, squandering of public wealth, and giving violence and hatred an honored place in society, there can never be support for unnecessary wars, which is what almost all wars is - unnecessary.

  • Tom Civiletti (unverified)

    last clause should be:

    ...which is what almost all war is - unnecessary.

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