This Memorial Day, as we honor the service of our nation’s brave service members and veterans, is also a good time to examine what it means to “support our troops.” Too often in today’s political discourse, it is assumed that Republicans and conservatives support our troops while Democrats and progressives somehow don’t. This canard appears to be based on little more than the fact that conservatives engage in far more hawkish saber-rattling than progressives do. Much more, however, is required to truly support our troops.
Here at Winning Progressive, we believe that supporting our troops requires recognizing and honoring the sacrifice that our brave men and women in uniform make for our country. Such recognition and honor requires four things:
* only putting our troops in harm’s way when compelling circumstances require it
* providing our troops with the resources they need to do their jobs
* making sure our troops and their families are provided for financially, medically, and psychologically when at war and when they come home
* making sure our veterans are well taken care of
On each of these points, while Republicans like to talk the talk about supporting our troops, it is more often progressives who walk the walk. Examples include:
* Iraq and Afghanistan: The Bush Administration and his conservative cheerleaders sent our troops into an unnecessary invasion of Iraq, while failing to provide adequate resources for our military to get the job done in Afghanistan. By contrast, the Obama Administration has kept its promise to end combat operations in Iraq, provided additional resources for our efforts in Afghanistan, and is now taking steps to bring all U.S. combat forces home from Afghanistan by the end of 2014.
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* 21st Century G.I. Bill: In 2008 Democrats, led by Sen. Jim Webb, passed the 21st Century G.I. Bill, which provided comprehensive educational benefits to soldiers who served our country in Iraq or Afghanistan after September 11, 2001. Under the bill, anyone who served at least three months in those military theaters is entitled to some assistance for college that they can use within the next 15 years. The level of benefits depends on how long you were in Iraq or Afghanistan, with soldiers serving three more years receiving the equivalent of four years’ tuition at a public university. While the bill ended up with bipartisan support, it was Democrats who insisted in including it in the 2008 bill for funding the Iraq and Afghanistan wars and the 22 Senators (including John McCain) who voted against the proposal were all Republicans.
* Strengthening Our Military Families Initiative: As we’ve explained here previously, the Obama Administration has launched the first ever comprehensive effort to get all government agencies working together to help our troops and their families. This Strengthening Our Military Families Initiative is focused on, among other things, improving mental health services, preventing predatory lending practices targeting our troops and their families, and increasing education opportunities available to military children.
* Standing Up on Veterans’ Issues: On issue after issue of importance to supporting our veterans, Democrats lead while most Republicans are nowhere to be found. For example, the 2010 Congressional Report Card from the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America ranked the voting records of members of the U.S. House and Senate on issues such as full and advanced funding for the Veterans Administration health care system (so that the VA does not always have to stand by nervously to see if they are going to get enough funding), supporting improvements to the post-9/11 GI Bill, modernizing the VA claims system, and providing unemployment benefits to combat veterans just returning from war. All of the Senators earning an A+ or A ranking are Democrats, while almost all of the Senators who earned a D or lower grade are Republicans. On the House side, most of the representatives earning an A+ or A are Democrats, while most of the D or lower grades went to Republicans. Similar results can be seen in IAVA’s 2008 report, IAVA’s 2006 report, and a recent ranking from the Disabled American Veterans.
In short, time after time Democrats have taken action to support our troops, while Republicans have offered little more than empty rhetoric.
If you’d like to help show your support for our troops, please write a letter to your local newspaper editor thanking our brave men and women in uniform for their service, and urging Congress and our President to only use our troops when necessary, to make sure our troops and their families are well taken care of financially, medically, and psychologically, and to continue to take care of our nation’s veterans.
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