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THE ARMISTICE

It was the year 1919. The Treaty of Versailles was signed.. a cease fire ended hostilities..
World War I had just ended.. Those of us who remember those fairy tales from from history class know that it was termed ‘the war to end all wars.’ Instead power brokers created an entirely new version of the Middle East, one that seemingly has doomed the world to eternal conquest and quagmire..

But back during those happy times of the war’s ending, right after Sgt Henry Gunther had just either commited an act of valor or suicide, the powers in conflict declared Armistice. The war had ended.. and with this newfound peacetime came a widespread global thanksgiving to the troops that weathered the war.. A minute of silence to honor veterans who fought is often used across the planet on November 11 at 11am.. after that minute comes another, one to honor the wives and children of the men who sacrificed time and toil to fight the war that didn’t end a thing..

This day is not just Veterans Day in the United States. It is also a celebration of those who honor troops from Britain to France.. solemn ceremonies take place. In the United States, a Chief Executive or Vice President–this year Joe Biden–lays a wreath at the tomb of the unknown soldier..

After World War I turned into more wars, the United States renamed November 11 Veterans’ Day to include all of those who fought in wars. World War II, Korea, Vietnam.. and more recently the American misadventures in no mans’ Afghanistan and Iraq.. It is one of the most solemn and serious of occasions.. Federal buildings .. for some, things are a standstill in observation..

Kind hearted acts of charity are plentiful today. Restaurants and businesses give away little freebies–breakfast for free at Friendly’s this morning was unusually busy while I waited for my vehicle inspection at Jack Williams.. It was filled with veterans of all branches, proudly decorated with their honorable mentions across lapels.. Also they were adorned with symbols of their branches, coats to display their pride, and wrinkled older faces to show what the wear and tear of wounds of war can do to their body..  I ate alone while waiting for the car repairs, and desperately attempted to keep  my people watching to a minimum. But it was difficult today. I saw a number of vets coming in, alone, almost looking gaunt and aged. Some of them clearly are nearing their end, the great generation of yesterday turning into the lackluster one of the present. Others were with wives, or children. One rather boisterous table was in clear celebration mode: A number of veterans and their wives, children, and even grandchildren. All of them getting a free meal. And that’s a good deal.

Beyond those corporate acts of goodness, though, what else exists for veterans?  Friend after friend on my Facebook news feed this morning  thanked veterans and offered their public statements to honor those who served in the military. It is so often like my friends, people of little stature in the global complex of power, are all movie stars offering up their public relation-vetted statements on every day affairs. Does anyone care of Bill from Pittsburgh or Steve from New Jersey says that we should honor veterans? Not really.. their words are words. Their actions, more than likely, do little to honor anything today. I bet they did not even know that 2 minutes of silence are to be adhered to at 11am in whatever time zone you inhabit..

Even more apparent this year–but somehow not being talked about virtually anywhere–is the complete and total collapse of the Veterans Affairs Administration. Let us keep in mind: Despite news organizations’ blackouts concerning the scandal of mistreatment and mismanagement in the agency Lincoln said should “To care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan,” things aren’t over. As a matter of fact, Robert McDonald, the new VA chief, may fire 1000 staffers in response to the awful health care received by veterans in the United States. That is a monumentally big deal. One that is unspoken on this day..

The latest two wars that lasted way too long have become nightmares on main street for veterans who lived. So often in previous wars, people injured would have ended up as the killed in action. With medical advancements, though, they can live without limbs. Or in paralysis. And they do, so often.. They also get treated like mentally ill patients by Veterans Affairs–all the while the department completely botches up their mental health programs for veterans who desperately need them..

Another problem for veterans returning: Apprenticeship programs, despite new attention and marketing, aren’t propelling the United States into a positive realm economically. Factories are so often closing rather than opening.. Jobs are vanishing. Robots are taking over..

Veterans had to defend the United States’ missions in a global theater. And they also had to defend many higher paid contractors from the RAND CORP and Blackwater..

The plot is also thickening on that.

The original Armistice Day celebrated the end of a war.. subsequent presidents renamed and changed dates and changed them back again for the American version called Veterans’ Day. But there is an enormous elephant in the room that no one is talking about.

George W. Bush and Donald Rumsfeld did an enormous service to those who serve–those who serve in private corporations in war. Blackwater and the RAND CORP, Halliburton and others all achieved enormous success due to the wartime footing the United States put itself on after September 11, 2001.   They overbilled the United States, they often put phantom employees on payroll just to reap more profit, they also have been accused of being involved with sex trafficking and also the murder of innocent Iraqis during the Iraq war. United States servicemen had to defend them, guard them, and keep them safe. In the mean time, troops were making far less in dollars than the private contractors. Also, private contractors receiving orders and being permitted to kill in the name of war is also a creepy path to morally difficult questions. But it happened. And still is.

Whether RAND and Blackwater and their ilk should or should not take part in battle has already been answered by our leaders: They are active participants, for better or worse, constitutional or not. The legal question aside, a very practical and poignant question arises: Should they also be honored on Veterans Day for what they do?

The WEEK magazine had a good article this week about the sacrifice of American contractors.United States services took a big hit during Afghanistan and Iraq, with 6,838 troops dying during combat. But there were 6,800 contractors killed as well, those numbers are often not reported and the sacrifices of those who lost limbs and now suffer permanent disability are never mentioned.  And they don’t get veterans’ benefits. They cannot walk into a VA and attempt to get health care, no matter how first or second rate the care may be. Some of the big contractors, THE WEEK reports, have also been actively denying contractors medical care after being injured during wartime.

The American government is often giving the duties of warfare to private individuals. They are permitted to fight and die for the nation.. but they are not honored.

Should they be?

This is a divisive question.

Veterans often don’t like the premise to begin with: They often had to go first in line before contractors in Iraq, getting hit with roadside IEDs or bullets..They made less money.. and they did not get involved with war for profit; instead they often volunteered for the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps because they felt it was their patriotic duty. After 9/11, many rushed to sign up for their chosen branch. They proudly engaged in battle. Even if the rules of engagement were fuzzy and the Bush Administration permits pushed the envelope in the run up to Gulf War II, American fighting forces proudly served..

So did contractors. For them, it was a job. Employment.. they were paid, sometimes highly paid. And they did some wretched things.. Their bosses engaged in some frivolous attempts to defraud taxpayers.. But 6,8000 contractors were killed and many, many more were injured beyond repair.

So .. should they be honored?
Do they deserve their own day?
And if not, should we stop using their services?

This is one of the biggest questions of our time.

In the future, when robots fight our battles, the question will become: Do we honor the machines who keep us safe?

This world is changing..
One contract at a time.

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