We answered the call to serve our country. We volunteered or were drafted. We spent our tour of duty in the military with pride and honor. While we were in faraway places our friends, loved ones and family were left behind. We were sent to some harsh places – the cold of Germany or Korea in the winter, the heat of the Vietnam jungle and the desert of Iraq and Afghanistan.
We did as we were told and went where we were asked. We ate, slept and showered when and where ordered. We put our normal lives on hold and lived not as private citizens but members of the Armed Forces. We were there to preserve freedom, and, as the Korea War Memorial states, “Freedom Is Not Free.”
We signed a blank check to our country by placing our lives on the line every day. We promised to give our all – up to and including our lives – and many paid that ultimate sacrifice.
All the time we remembered the promises we were given when we signed the dotted line and gave ourselves to Uncle Sam: We would receive medical care, education assistance and a long list of other things our country would provide in return for our service.
Now, try to collect on those promises and see how far you get. Our wounded warriors today come home to, in many cases, treatment that is not only sub par, but almost nonexistent. The problems found at Walter Reed are a sham and a shame. Think about someone who has to travel many miles to receive treatment and then be told “you do not qualify,” or “your appointment was cancelled,” and so many other excuses.
Cold War veterans are for the most part told they are not veterans. They are told if you were not in combat you do not count. You might have been in our military service, but so what? We can break those promises and there is not much you can do about it.
Even a simple Cold War Medal is beyond consideration. Today in boot camp you get the National Defense Service Medal. There are medals for sea service, overseas service, the global war on terrorism and other pieces of “chest candy.” Many Cold War vets served in the wrong time frame and don’t qualify for recognition.
Perhaps the thought process is “if we wait long enough there will be no Cold War veterans left. ‘Old soldiers never die; they just fade away,’ so let the Cold Warriors fade away.” Then there would be no need for a Cold War Victory Medal. Then we will not have to worry or feel guilty.
A new veterans service organization, American Cold War Veterans, wants to change that. We have been petitioning Congress to right this wrong. We are asking Congress to authorize and direct the Department of Defense to devise and issue a Cold War Victory or Service Medal to all who served honorably during the Cold War, from September 1945 to December 1991.
The Veterans of Foreign Wars supports us in our quest for recognition, but most of us cannot join the VFW. The American Legion might accept some of us, but not all of us. AMVETS will allow us to join. Cold War vets do not have many options.
We are also asking Congress and the Veterans Administration to provide to our wounded warriors and our homecoming veterans the best care possible. Our country owes them nothing less.
Congress must open their eyes and hearts to a very large voting block – the millions of Cold War veterans.
Ask your senator to be a cosponsor for S.1097, The Cold War Medal Act of 2007, which has been sitting at the Senate Armed Services Committee since April of 2007.
Ask your senators and representatives to introduce an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act for 2009 to provide for and direct the DOD to issue a Cold War Victory Medal. The Cold War Recognition Certificate just does not do us justice. It makes no mention of military service.
Promises made, promises broken. Let’s stop the cycle and provide proper care for our wounded vets and proper recognition and honor for the “old vets.” We remember. Do you?
Jerald Terwilliger of South Portland is vice chairman of American Cold War Veterans Inc.