May 1, 2007
Dear VCS Supporters:
For this update, I would like to take the opportunity to introduce myself and let you know why I came to work for Veterans for Common Sense.
Five years ago the Administration began selling fear and the Iraq War, falsely claiming that Iraq was linked with 9/11 and that Iraq was ready to use nuclear weapons and create deadly mushroom clouds over American cities.
Four years ago today, President George W. Bush declared “Mission Accomplished” with a huge banner on an aircraft carrier. Yet his Iraq War fiasco continues escalating, with 100 of our fellow citizens killed in Iraq last month.
Friends, that’s why I’m here at VCS and no longer working for our Federal government. Now I work on issues related to national security, veterans’ advocacy, and civil liberties so that veterans’ voices are heard instead of the loud and phony salesmen peddling pre-emptive and unilateral war.
Our Nation has suffered more than 232,000 casualties – more than 3,300 U.S. service members are dead, and more than 229,000 U.S. veterans were treated at VA hospitals. These casualties are our friends, our children, our neighbors.
Experts predict the human and financial costs could reach 700,000 veteran patients and $700 billion over 40 years. If the Iraq War escalation continues as it is now, costs will soar much higher.
My involvement with veterans’ issues dates to 1992, after I returned home from the Gulf War, where I served as a cavalry scout with the Army’s 1st Armored Division. I wrote Congress asking why so many Gulf War veterans were ill. Every time I went to the Atlanta VA hospital to get an appointment, there were many other Desert Storm veterans like me trying unsuccessfully to see VA doctors for unusual medical problems.
One of the first veterans I met was my good friend Charles Sheehan-Miles. We worked very well together at the Gulf War Veterans of Georgia and at the National Gulf War Resource Center from 1993 to 2000. Together, we broke the story about chemical warfare agent exposures and the need for research. From 1995 to 1999, Charles and I testified before Congress about the needs of veterans.
During the same time, I had the opportunity to work with our good friend Dan Fahey, an expert on depleted uranium. In 1998, Dan, Charles, and I broke the story that more than 400,000 Desert Storm veterans entered into areas contaminated with DU in 1991.
After the terrible attacks of 9/11, my VA responsibilities expanded to include preparing reports about Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans.
Working at VA became frustrating, as my warnings acout a flood of patients and claims plus my efforts to provide casualty tracking were rejected by political appointees attempting to conceal the escalating human and financial costs of the two wars from the public and from Congress.
In one briefing in 2005, a VA political appointee said that if returning Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans simply believed in God and Country, then they would not return home with post-traumatic stress disorder. So I resigned from VA, and Charles handed off responsibilities for VCS to me earlier this year. Now reporters call me the Insider because I provide the facts about VA to Congress and the press.
My goals here at VCS are to make sure our common sense views of war veterans become part of the discussions about taking care of our service members, honoring our social contract with veterans and preserving the freedoms we enjoy that are guaranteed by our U.S. Constitution.
VCS has an open door. Please send us suggestions on how to make our voice heard more effectively or how we can advocate for new positions. Your voice, your views and your ideas are what make us strong and enable our input to have both meaning and impact during wartime when our national security is in question, our civil liberties are threatened and suicidal veterans are turned away from VA hospitals.
Thanks go out to those of you who sent kind notes, posted good blogs and provided news clips. Our web site traffic continues soaring, donations keep flowing and new supporters keep joining. The more we stick together, the more improvements we can make for all of us. I’m honored to be here, and all 12,000 of us in our VCS team can and will make a difference.
Veterans for Common Sense
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1101 Pennsylvania Ave., SE, Suite 203
Washington, DC 20003-2229