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US veterans give their all

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I read with interest Mr. Don Hulse’s letter of Nov. 21, “Casualties of war not mere statistics.” I couldn’t agree more. Many combat veterans become casualties years later with delayed post-traumatic stress disorder and the effects of Agent Orange who were killed in The ’Nam and didn’t even know it (thank you, Monsanto, Dow Chemicals, and others). The true sadness to it all is that we haven’t fought any wars “for our freedom” since WWII (fighting for the freedom of South Korea notwithstanding which was for another peoples’ freedom). Another very sad truth is that we are far more interested in which celebrity is bedding whom now or has just died than those servicemen and women who have just been maimed for life or killed in our current little war. Mr. Montel Williams put it so well on “Fox and Friends” (Jan. 26, 2008) when Heath Ledger died contemporary with the 28 soldiers who had been killed between Jan. 1 and 26 (show air time) of that year. Mr. Williams complained that not even he had been sensitive enough to how many soldiers had succumbed to Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom. Mr. Hulse is right on stating, “… battles and casualties are not just ships, ship movements, ship’s crews and statistics, but happy, handsome, young Americans at extreme risk.” However, I do strongly disagree with Mr. Hulse’s characterization that said young Americans “… give their lives for our country.” When war dead are spoken of in the media and in private conversation this characterization is too often heard. As the late Andy Rooney said in his Memorial Day tribute May 25, 2008, “… they didn’t give their lives, they had them taken from them.” Soldiers never give their lives for their country. If they do, indeed give their lives in behalf of anyone (e.g., throwing themselves upon a grenade), they do so for each other, their comrades. For those readers who have never served in the armed forces, when you speak freely about sending our troops after this or that enemy, perceived or real, please consider the foregoing and this, the definition of a veteran: • whether active duty, retired, national guard, or reserve – a veteran is someone who, at one point in his or her life, wrote a blank check made payable to the citizens of the United States of America for an amount “up to and including my life.” Jim Piper, Auburn, RN (late of VA Reno); veteran, USN ’69-’72; ’Nam ’69-’70