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Weekly News Roundup: Veterans Day, Four More Years in Afghanistan

written by Matt Elliott
on November 12, 2010

Yesterday day was Veterans Day, and two of our Regarding War bloggers wrote thoughtful posts on the meaning of this day. Kanani Fong reflects on the brotherhood between veterans, while Andrew Lubin remembers the many battles and the soldiers who fought those battles throughout our history, from Valley Forge to Fallujah. We'll have more posts on the topic of Veterans Day throughout the month from some of our other bloggers.

Smith Magazine has an interesting exercise on its site this week. The storytelling magazine teamed up with Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) and asked vets to share their stories about coming home from war — using only six words. Some are heartwarming ("Best. Words. Ever? "Mom, I'm home.""). A few are funny ("Saw war. Pass the flask, please."). And most are heartbreaking ("Joined Army; left legs in Iraq." "Totally scared to come home again." "I breath, but I'm dead inside."). All are worth reading, which you can do here.

There were two articles this week about veterans coming home with injuries. From the New York Daily News, comes a story of two New York-area veterans who have been helped by the Wounded Warrior Project. The article declares in its introduction that nearly 5,700 American service-members have died in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and more than 41,000 have been injured. It profiles Ray Sumner from Staten Island, who was shot in the foot in Iraq and needed to learn how to walk again. With help from the Wounded Warrior Project, we was able to get his MBA from Vanderbilt University. Peter Kim, from Long Island, badly injured his ankle in Iraq, and returned to college at Columbia University when he got home. As with Sumner, the VA told him the tuition was too high, so he sought assistance from the Wounded Warriors Project.

Meanwhile, Newsweek has profiles of four wounded veterans, with vivid photographs and descriptions of their service and lives now. You'll meet Maj. David Rozelle, who lost his right foot and became the first amputee to return to active command in Iraq. You'll meet Carolyn Schapper, who was with army intelligence in northern Iraq and has been on more than 200 combat patrols. She came home with PTSD and is now an advocate for veterans. You'll meet Andrew Coughlan, who is dealing with trauma from the war and is now an intern in the video department of the Jacksonville Jaguars of the NFL. Lastly, you'll meet Dan Nevins, who served in the first Gulf War and was among the first reservists to deploy to Iraq in January 2004. He lost both his legs to an IED, has undergone 32 surgeries, and battled multiple infections, but has since been fitted with prosthetics and has climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro.

President Obama spent Veterans Day at the Yongsan Army Garrison in Seoul, South Korea, where he addressed 1,400 base personnel and their families and several hundred Korean vets.

Now, on this day, we honor every man and woman who has ever worn the uniform of the United States of America. We salute fallen heroes, and keep in our prayers those who are still in harm's way — like the men and women serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.

We recall acts of uncommon bravery and selflessness. But we also remember that honoring those who've served is about more than the words we say on Veterans Day or Memorial Day. It's about how we treat our veterans every single day of the year. It's about making sure they have the care they need and the benefits that they've earned when they come home. It's about serving all of you as well as you've served the United States of America.

This has been one of my highest priorities since taking office. It's why I asked for one of the largest increases in the VA budget in the past 30 years. It's why we've dramatically increased funding for veterans' health care. It's why we're improving care for wounded warriors, especially those with Post-Traumatic Stress and Traumatic Brain Injury...

So I want all of you to know when you come home your country is going to be there for you. That is the commitment I make to you as Commander-in-Chief.

Those serving in Afghanistan may need to wait longer than the proposed 2011 withdrawal date to come home, it appears. Senior officials in the Obama Administration are "are now talking more about the end of 2014 as the date when Afghans will take charge of their own security rather than the summer 2011 for the start of the U.S. pullout." Four more years of war are meant to appease President Karzai, who was repeatedly said his country's security forces will not be ready to stand alone by 2011, and to serve notice to the Taliban that it can't simply wait a few more months before NATO forces exit. "During our assessments, we looked at if we continue to move forward at this pace, how long before we can fully transition to the Afghans? Of course, we are not going to fully transition to the Afghans by July 2011,'' said one senior administration official. ''Right now, we think we can start in 2011 and fully transition some time in 2014.''

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