This past Thursday two gentlemen from the Shepherd Center in Atlanta put on a presentation to the Marietta Kiwanis about SHARE (Shaping Hope and Recovery Excellence). The privately funded program began in 2008, and provides individual treatment to wounded combatants with spinal cord and traumatic brain injury. To date SHARE has treated approximately 200 warriors. The cost is $100,000 per month, or $1.2 million per year. The majority of our wounded from the two wars of this century have been from blast injuries that have resulted in spine and brain trauma.
The presenters at Kiwanis had a PowerPoint that showed a very impressive number of rehabilitation facilities and a temporary residence for families at the Shepherd Center. I was convinced, as I think were all of my fellow Kiwanians, that this is a very worthwhile program that produces qualitative results. That’s the good news. The bad news is that SHARE has to beg for money---and a lot of it. This is not only disgraceeful, distasteful, and unconscionable, it is immoral. If our government is going to send Americans to war it is not enough to just outfit them with the best equipment and technology. The other half of the equation is to appropriately care for those who will probably never lead the normal lives of those who stayed home. The taxpayers owe these fighting men and women the best care that money can buy. There doesn’t seem to be any opposition by our congressional delegation and two U.S. senators to purchasing as many F-22 Stealth Fighters at $140 million each, but for some reason there is always a “budget” problem when it comes to treating our veterans. I wonder how many SHARE facilities could be opened around the country for the price of just one F-22.
I am astonished that there isn’t more anger out there against our elected officials who will tout the wonders of SHARE, who will tour the facilities and proclaim what a great program it is, who will say all the right things about trying to get government money for it, have their pictures taken for some campaign photo ops, and after they leave---silence. I can recall more statements than can be counted from the same delegation about the need to buy more Lockheed planes, but compare all their efforts for Lockheed with what they are doing for the veterans. Congressman Phil Gingrey avoided military service during the Vietnam War by deferments to attend college and medical school. Considering that he is a well known conservative who gives rousing speeches at veterans lunches and gatherings, I have often wondered why he didn’t give back to this country by volunteering his medical skills to the armed forces. Perhaps now he can show true leadership and not only sponsor a war tax that would pay the true costs for our veterans, but get out front and shame others in congress to support such a bill. That would be the right thing to do even if it goes against his and his Party’s mantra of no new taxes.
Every American should have skin in the game when we go to war. A war tax is a very small price to pay.