Tag Archives: Afghanistan War

Wounded warriors deserve much better than this


You hear about scandals occasionally involving high-profile charities.

They usually involve extravagance. Such is the case with the Wounded Warriors Project.

For the life of me I’m having trouble mustering the right words to convey the outrage I’m feeling at what’s been reported.

CEO Steven Nardizzi and chief operating officer Al Giordano have been fired by the WWP board, which said an “independent study” confirmed some grotesque “irregularities” in the way the organization was spending money donated to help care for heroes wounded in battle.

The outrage should sweep the nation.┬áPoliticians keep telling us how we must treat our wounded veterans with all the care and compassion we can deliver. People give to organizations expecting their money to go toward that care. Sure, there are “administrative costs” to be paid.

The WWP, though, reportedly was funneling roughly half of the money it gets to far more than paying salaries and buying stationery.

There were reports of extravagant parties at posh resorts. Nardizzi reportedly rappelled down the side of a hotel to make a grand entrance.

One report revealed that in 2014 alone, the organization spent $26 million on parties. Twenty-six million dollars!

I don’t know if there will be any criminal prosecutions involved with the two individuals who’ve been canned by the board. A part of me wishes they would just vanish from the face of the planet. Another part of me thinks there ought to be an examination into possible criminal malfeasance.

The Wounded Warriors Project is supposed to help the 50,000 or so vets who’ve been injured in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. People give money to this group expecting the money to do good for those who need the help.

We’ve come a huge distance from the Vietnam War era when our veterans were virtually scorned by the country that sent them into battle.

This hideous story must not dampen our resolve to continue to help our wounded veterans.

Indeed, it should cause us to redouble that effort.


Bush honors wounded vets … for a healthy fee

A friend gave me a heads up on this story earlier in the day.

Then I caught up with it. I am, to say the least, disappointed that a former president of the United States would actually do this.

George W. Bush spoke in 2012 to a group of wounded veterans, men and women he sent into battle. He then charged the charity event $100,000 to hear his remarks. The charity in question is Helping a Hero.


Is there something here that just doesn’t smell right?

President Bush’s remarks were intended to honor vets wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan. Some of the veterans who heard about the fee paid to the former president were offended. Gee, do you think?

Some of them lost limbs. They answered their nation’s call to duty — without regret. Then they listen to the former president pay tribute to them, only to learn that he pulled down a six-figure honorarium?

I get that other politicians charge substantial speaking fees. Hillary Clinton comes to mind and she surely has gotten her fair share of criticism for the money she’s made over the years.

Bush supporters say he discounted the amount he usually charges. The former president’s standard fee is about $175,000 per appearance. They also note that his appearances have raised many times the amount of money he earns just for speaking; they consider their investment to worth the cost.

OK, so he gave the vets’ group a break.

Allow me this: Big bleeping deal!

There’s just something infuriating to know that the commander in chief who sent these individuals into harm’s way would pull down such a hefty speaking fee to salute their service.


Another war is now over … more or less

The Afghan War has come to a close.

The United States has ended its combat role in one of the world’s most distressing places. However, our troop presence — unlike what occurred in Iraq — will remain, although at a much-reduced level.

Is this a good thing? I’m beginning, as of today, to hold my breath.


U.S. troop strength in Afghanistan topped out at 100,000 men and women. The United States began bombing Taliban and al-Qaeda terrorists less than a month after the 9/11 attacks. We threw out the Taliban in November 2001, but have been fighting them ever since, rooting out terrorist leaders, killing and/or capturing them.

All the while, the aim has been to build an Afghan army worthy and capable of taking the fight to the terrorists. That’s what the 10,800 U.S. troops will continue to assist them in doing after the first of the new year.

It is my sincere hope that this mission will succeed. The Iraq pullout hasn’t gone as planned. We sought to build an Iraqi army capable of defending the country. Islamic State fighters have seized much land from Iraqi forces, but in recent weeks the Iraq army and air force have managed — with U.S. air power assistance — to retake some key cities and regions from ISIL.

Our country is war-weary. It’s time to bring our combat role to an end.

The harder task will be to ensure the Afghans will be able to do what the Iraqis — to date — have been unable to do. That is to defend the hard-won victory over the Taliban.

This strategy has to work.


No regrets over Obama votes

The question came to me from a social media acquaintance.

He asked: “… just for the record are you sorry you voted for this incompetent community organizer?”

My answer to him: No.

I now shall elaborate.

The “incompetent community organizer,” of course, is Barack Obama, 44th president of the United States, who’s finding himself engaged in yet another struggle of wills┬áwith the folks in Congress who would oppose virtually anything he proposed at any level.

I’ve voted in every presidential election since 1972 and have never regretted a single vote I’ve cast for the candidate of my choice — win or lose.

Why should I regret my votes for Barack Obama in 2008 and again in 2012?

For starters, the 2008 campaign amid the worst economic crisis to hit the United States since the Great Depression. It occurred on George W. Bush’s watch and Sen. Obama pledged to take swift action to stop the free fall in our job rolls, our retirement account, the stock market, the housing market, the banking industry and the automobile industry. I trusted him then to do all of the above.

You know what? He delivered. The economic stimulus package, which the GOP opposed, contributed to improving the economic condition at many levels.

I did not hear Republican U.S. Sen. John McCain, the GOP presidential nominee, offer a solid solution to what was ailing our economy. And when he stopped campaigning to return to Washington when the stock market all but imploded, well, that told me — and apparently millions of other Americans — that Sen. McCain didn’t have a clue what to do.

Four years later, the economy had improved significantly, but Republicans kept insisting it was in the tank. The numbers told a different story.

Let’s not forget: Millions of Americans now have health insurance who didn’t have it before.

Yes, the country faced foreign policy crises on Obama’s watch. But as the 2012 campaign developed and the GOP nominated Mitt Romney to run against the president, it became clear — at least to me — that the Republicans didn’t have any clear answers on how to deal with those crises short of going back to war.

I had grown tired of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. The Iraq War is over. The Afghanistan War is about to end. Yes, the Islamic State has risen in Iraq and Syria. However, is it the president’s fault entirely that we’re fighting another bloodthirsty terrorist organization? Hardly. We all knew the “Global War on Terror” well could be a war without end.

So, I voted once again for Barack Obama.

He’s now facing yet another challenge from the “loyal opposition,” which frankly doesn’t appear to be all that loyal.

History is going to judge the community organizer a lot more kindly than his critics are doing so today.

Therefore, I stand by my support of Barack Obama.


Thornberry preps for center stage

In what might be the least surprising critique of President Obama’s decision to accelerate the drawdown of U.S. troops in Afghanistan, U.S. Rep. Mac Thornberry has begun taking the first baby steps from the back bench to the center stage of American foreign policy debate.

Thornberry, the 13th Congressional District representative since 1995, said the president’s decision is too much too quickly. Imagine my surprise: a Republican congressional committee chairman in waiting second-guessing the Democratic commander in chief.


Thornberry made his remarks to the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank full of Obama critics. He was preaching the choir, of course, which is what Democratic and Republican politicians always do. They look for friendly audiences where their applause lines will get the loudest response.

I am left to wonder whether Thornberry — the likely next chairman of the House Armed Services Committee — thinks it’s always prudent to deploy American forces into every battlefield that erupts. Barack Obama reiterated this week that the U.S. military remains the strongest in world history, but that it need not be deployed as the “hammer” to pound down every crisis “nail.”

As the president said today in his commencement speech to West Point cadets, the United States stands ready to use force only when it is in our national interest. Of course, that won’t satisfy the armchair hawks on Capitol Hill who cannot quite grasp the idea that sometimes diplomacy and seeking to build international coalitions is more suitable than charging in all alone.

The Iraq War? Remember how we were told we’d be greeted as “liberators” when we plowed across the border in March 2003 to overthrow Saddam Hussein? It didn’t quite work out that way.

Well, Thornberry likely will cruise to re-election this November against a token Democratic foe. He’s been in the Capitol Hill background for his entire congressional career. When Armed Services Chairman Buck McKeon, R-Calif., retires at the end of the year, he’ll likely hand the gavel over to Thornberry, the panel’s vice chairman.

I’m hoping for a bit more bipartisanship from the new chairman. We’ll likely not get it.

Still, I’ll await with interest Chairman Thornberry’s entrance onto center stage.

Former president takes up cudgel for vets

My goodness, we have come so far as a country in lifting awareness of the needs of our military veterans.

Take the latest initiative headed by former President George W. Bush.

The 43rd president talked today on ABC’s “This Week” with correspondent Martha Raddatz about a effort he has launched through his presidential library in Dallas in conjunction with Syracuse University.


His intention is to help veterans returning from combat reintegrate into civilian life. The former president told Raddatz about the “military-civilian divide.” Civilians, said the president, don’t understand all that veterans have endured fighting for their country.

He talked of the emotion he feels when he is in the presence of these heroes, many of them he sent into combat during his two terms as president.

How far has the nation come? Many, many figurative miles.

We can go back to the Vietnam War. Did returning veterans get this kind of attention when they returned from that conflict? Hardly. They were ignored and often scorned. No need to rehash that sorry episode.

It all began to change when the Persian Gulf War vets returned home from that brief, but intense, conflict in 1991. Then came the 9/11 attacks, which led to the war we have been fighting against al-Qaida in Afghanistan and the Iraq War.

Bush wants to remove the “D” from the PTSD label. Post traumatic stress isn’t a “disorder,” said the president. It is a condition that requires the nation’s attention.

President Bush has made quite an effort to stay out of the partisan political battles that have raged since he left the White House in 2009. This battle, though, is worth his time and effort.

I am glad he is willing to fight it on behalf of our veterans.

This veteran thanks you, Mr. President.

10 combat tours are more than enough

President Obama introduced the nation Tuesday night to a young Army Ranger, Sergeant First Class Cory Remsburg, who is recovering from grievous wounds he suffered when a roadside bomb exploded in Afghanistan.

But then the president said something that took my breath away. He said SFC Remsburg was injured on his 10th tour of duty in the war zone.

Tenth tour!

Think about this for a moment. We are sending young men and women repeatedly into harm’s way. Is this how it’s supposed to be? Is this how a nation is supposed to buy into a conflict when we depend on so few of these brave warriors that we have to keep sending them back into battle?

Cory Remsburg suffered near-fatal wounds. As was quite evident at the State of the Union speech Tuesday, while he has come a long from where he was, he has a long and difficult road ahead.

A member of my own family, a young cousin, also is in the Army. She, too, has answered the call multiple times to Iraq and Afghanistan. She’s still serving our country and I’m so very proud of her.

Still, I cannot help but wonder whether we’re asking too much of these young Americans. I feel to compelled to bring up something that has next to zero political support, but I cannot get the image of SFC Remsburg out of my mind.

Mandatory military service would be one way to spread the burden to more young Americans, just as we did during all our wars until near the end of the Vietnam War. The draft became wildly unpopular back then mostly because of the deferments that were granted to those who had connections, leaving the war-zone experience to those who didn’t qualify for any of the deferments that were available.

The only way conscription could work — if hell were to freeze over and we would bring it back — would be to eliminate all deferments except for those who were physically unable to serve in the military.

Cory Remsburg came within an inch of his life of paying the ultimate price, as have so many others who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Ten combat tours is far more than enough to ask any brave American warrior.

That was some vets’ ‘reunion’

I have just come home from a reunion of sorts.

I didn’t know anyone else there, but it seemed like we were all brothers and sisters. An Amarillo restaurant treated veterans and active-duty military personnel to free meals tonight in honor of Veterans Day. My wife, Kathy, told me about it this morning. We decided to go, given that I’m an Army veteran. I thought it was a nice gesture on Golden Corral’s part to give us a free meal.

To be honest, I wasn’t quite prepared for what we saw when we got there.

The line was backed up to the door. We walked in. A gentleman was handing out stickers that said “I Served.” He asked Kathy, “Are you a veteran?” She pointed back to me and said, “He is.” I reached for my wallet to produce my Veterans Administration identification card to prove my veteran status. “I don’t need it,” the man said. “I believe you.”

I looked up and down the lengthy line that twisted back from the serving area. All these men and a few women were wearing military gear of some fashion: t-shirts inscribed with some branch of the service; ball caps denoting Vietnam War veterans, Iraq War and Afghanistan War veterans, vets from the various armed forces. I noticed a couple of quite elderly gentlemen I guessed to be either Korean War or World War II veterans.

One young former Marine wore a t-shirt that said: “Marines: Making it safe for the Army.” I wanted to remind the young man about a saying we had in Vietnam, which was that “The Army did all the fighting, the Marines got all the glory, and the Navy and the Air Force got all the money.”

I chose not to possibly spoil the moment.

I heard couples exchanging histories with each other. Where did you serve? When? Did you go to such-and-such?

Perhaps the most interesting veteran was a Vietnam War Marine adorned in his dress blues. He was a corporal. His uniform jacket had all the requisite Vietnam War ribbons on it. I was amazed he could still get into his uniform. Good for him.

It was quite a party tonight at the Golden Corral, which was one of several eating establishments in Amarillo that honored our veterans.

I want to thank them all and not just for tonight’s gesture of good will and generosity.

They deserve thanks for echoing the nation’s renewed spirit of gratitude for those who answered the call to duty. America didn’t always honor its vets in this manner. Vietnam veterans know what I mean.

Thank you for making us feel special.