A Veteran’s Message to Congress: ‘I Am Not Honored. I Am Disgusted.’

“If Senators Paul and Udall really want to honor our service members, here are a few things they could do with that money instead.”

A U.S. marine from the First Battalion Eighth Marines Alpha Company looks out near Kunjak in southern Afghanistan's Helmand province. (Finbarr O'Reilly / Reuters)

It’s Time for U.S. Troops to Leave Afghanistan

In an essay on TheAtlantic.com last week, Senators Rand Paul and Tom Udall urged members of Congress to support their bipartisan joint resolution, the American Forces Going Home After Noble (AFGHAN) Service Act. The bill, they wrote, would “return our combat forces home from Afghanistan in an orderly and responsible way, while also setting a framework for political reconciliation in Afghanistan without a permanent U.S. presence.” It would also provide a $2,500 bonus to members of the military who have served in the Global War on Terror.

“Congress must step up and step in to ensure that another generation of Americans is not sent to fight a war with no end in sight,” Paul and Udall wrote, “especially when there is no military solution to the challenges facing Afghanistan.”

Members of our Congress once again demonstrated that they do not understand our country’s veterans. Last week, Senators Rand Paul and Tom Udall published an article promoting their new bill, the AFGHAN Service Act. In it, the senators commend the patriotism and bravery of the many men and women who served in Afghanistan for the past 18 years, including 2,300 fallen and more than 20,000 wounded service members.

They write:

For their heroism and valor, our legislation says “Thank you” by ensuring we recognize and honor that service. Drawing from the billions saved by ending the war in Afghanistan, our bill provides a $2,500 bonus within one year to all the members of our volunteer military who have served in the Global War on Terrorism.

As one of the more than 20,000 veterans wounded in Afghanistan, I want to be clear: I am not honored. I am disgusted.

The senators’ bill embodies a sentiment that makes the military-civilian transition so difficult for veterans. Society assumes that those of us who went over there, saw horrible things, endured terrible pain, and who now struggle to function as normal human beings will be “honored” by lip service and a check in the mail. It is insulting.

As a veteran, I want to see my brothers and sisters in arms get the help they need. I want people to understand the sacrifices they made and the many battles they face. I want to see people show respect for veterans more than twice a year, on Veterans Day and Memorial Day. I want our country to honor its commitment to veteran services.

Instead, we have veterans struggling to access quality health care and benefits. Veterans coping with depression, substance abuse, and PTSD without adequate support. Veterans without meaningful employment, or housing. Veterans who fear being stigmatized for talking about their military service with others.

If Senators Paul and Udall really want to honor our service members, here are a few things they could do with that money instead:

Even if ending the war in Afghanistan is inevitable at this point, Congress can do far better for our veterans than what is being touted as “honor” in the AFGHAN Service Act.

Nathan Jerauld
U.S. Army Veteran, Bronze Star and Purple Heart Recipient
Cicero, N.Y.