SUSAN SARANDON: ”Imagine you are in constant danger from hidden roadside bombs and exposed to ambushes and sniper fire. Imagine that your home is constantly harassed with mortar explosions and rocket attacks while you try to sleep. Imagine you witness your closest friend being torn apart by enemy fire. Imagine you discover that the person you thought was an insurgent that you killed turns out to be an innocent child or someone who looks similar to your mother. Now imagine you lost a limb, you lost your eyesight, you lost a friend, you lost your sanity and you lost your innocence for an unappreciative society and an unconcerned elected government.” This is the testimony of Garrett Reppenhagen, who spoke earlier, cavalry scout and sniper in the US Army First Division from 2004 to 2005.
He continues. “I didn't expect to come home to find there's no plan for addressing the needs of veterans like myself. I don't understand how, despite being in the middle of not one but two wars, our government is actually scaling back on services that are critical for men and women trying to re-enter civilian society.”
Here are some staggering facts. One in three homeless Americans are military vets, and that is rising. One in four vets with PTSD sought medical care from the VA, where they experienced a two to three month wait to see a doctor. Over 53,000 are wounded. The ratio of doctors to patients is one doctor for every 500 patients. Veteran males aged 20 to 24 have twice the unemployment rate. 40% of troops currently being rotated are National Guard or reservists. 95% of them are experiencing problems getting their pay. Many are being sent back are on potent anti-depressants, anti-anxiety drugs with little or no counseling or supervision or screening. Over 200 have committed suicide. There's a 70% divorce rate for returning soldiers. The GOP plan for 2007 drops $65 billion in benefits over the next five years.
There was not a mention of this crisis in the State of the Union address, as if the war only exists over there and not here. And there was not an ounce of criticism from any of our presidential hopefuls. I say to those who tell me that we are fighting this war over there so that it doesn't come here: listen to the sons and daughters who are returning and their families, and you will know that the war is being fought here in the hearts and minds and bodies of those that are returning and have already sacrificed so much. Shame on you! We are here today to say it is time to remove the burden of the political crisis of the Iraq war from our soldiers and commit to caring for a new generation of Americans who are grieving, severely wounded and mentally troubled. Thank you.