Military Cutbacks

Reprinted from PN/Paraplegia News May 2014

The month of May holds warfare significance that's a reminder of the cutbacks our military has faced.

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In my editorials, I don’t always want to write about a Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) regulation or rule. Neither do I want to take someone to task for something that presents a problem for those of us in wheelchairs nor covers the conflict in Afghanistan. Sometimes I feel more retrospective and want to cover a matter more thought-provoking.

With that beginning, it’s the explanation for what I’m writing about in this issue of PN. I’ve often wondered about the change in the approach we Americans take at the completion of a major military conflict or war. I would be willing to bet that less than 5% of Americans reading this editorial recognize the significance of the month of May.

May 1, 1941, was before the beginning of World War II. The U.S. public didn’t want to get involved in it because they remembered the disastrous impact on our young military men who had been in World War I. There were no uniform treaties against things such as mustard gas and other horrendous weapons. Consequently, the public saw the conflict as a “European Thing” and didn’t want to be involved in it.

We officially became involved in WW II in Europe on Dec. 11, 1941. This was the result of Hitler’s declaration of war against the United States because of Germany’s treaty with Japan. Therefore, when we declared war against Japan on Dec. 7, 1941, the war became a true world war with a recognized beginning of Sept. 1, 1939.

So, what is significant about May? This is the month that Victory in Europe (VE) took place. I’ll always remember it because I recall seeing my father after he had been gone so long.

Where am I going with this story? Not since WW II have we been involved in a military action that united the American public in one uniform disposition. Not since Dec. 7, 1941, when we were bombed by Japan until one event took place. That event was the destruction of the World Trade Center in New York on Sept. 11, 2001.

In the interim period between May 1945 and September 2001, we hadn’t seen the American public united in one uniform effort despite Korea, Vietnam, Iraq and various other military actions. The public was lackadaisical even though some of the military actions were of major world political and military significance.

Unless there is an attack upon the American soil, there will be relative little interest in what takes place overseas. I believe we’re in a period similar to that which occurred after WW I when we don’t want our young men and women involved in “foreign entanglements.”

There is a serious danger in this type of thinking. It was this type of thought that made us unprepared for Korea, Vietnam and the Gulf War.

I remember my father talking to me about watching brand new Jeeps and airplanes being shoved over the side of the ship that was bringing him home from WW II because the war was over and we didn’t need them anymore. This was followed by cutbacks in manpower in all the military branches.

And yet, on June 25, 1950, only a little over five years later, the Korean War began when some 75,000 soldiers from the North Korean People’s Army poured across the 38th parallel and invaded South Korea.

My mother tells of my father receiving a notice that he was being drafted again for duty in the Army to fight in the Korean War. He was prepared to go until they realized he had three kids by then and they cancelled his call up.

We found ourselves totally unprepared for Korea as we did for Vietnam. “Foreign entanglements” have to be judged by their impact on our country, but regardless of the issue, we should be prepared. We’re now doing the same thing again.

I fear that one day we’ll be unable to recover from the cutbacks in our military. I hope I’m wrong, but let us pray our leaders consider their actions when they consider military cutbacks.

Otherwise, we could be like Rome and other great powers.


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