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Each morning in classrooms around this nation, our children pledge allegiance to that American flag that is a symbol of freedom, of hope, and of promise. Yet as the clock tolled on Oct. 1, 2013, the government for which the red, white, and blue stands stopped working. It shut down, literally and figuratively. Known as a beacon of hope for generations upon generations of people around the globe, the United States has been damaged by partisan politics that have overshadowed everything democracy stands for. Democracy is broken. We are broken. Worse than the financial impact of a shutdown is the damaging blow to the American spirit, knowing that no matter how much “we the people” scream, nobody seems to be listening.
On the outside, there are the obvious effects. National parks have closed, memorials erected to symbolize the sacrifice of our heroes have been barricaded, and thousands of federal workers have been sent home with furlough notices. On the inside, there exists fear, confusion and anger. How is it possible that a country that is still engaged in an active war has just stopped functioning correctly? We have men and women laying their heads down at night in countries WE sent them to, places that 99 percent of this country’s citizens would never dare step foot in, and those chosen to represent our best interests are choosing to plant their feet in the ground over political ideologies.
As our own veterans and the organizations founded to support them have begun to expand their efforts to make their voices heard, it seems a sense of urgency on the part of Republicans and Democrats is still lacking. How is it possible that those who raised their hands in service to this nation when we needed them the most are the first to be casualties of irresponsible governing? How is it possible that those who answered the call as our towers fell on American soil, now sit in Afghanistan with the added stress of whether they will receive the income they need to feed their families? Have we not asked enough of our military community? Are lost limbs, increased suicides, and parentless children not enough sacrifice to motivate those in the majestic halls of Congress to do their jobs?
Here we are, at the final hour before we reach a third failure. First, there was sequestration. Then the government shutdown. Now we are on the eve of reaching the debt ceiling and defaulting on American debts. Even with the Pay Our Military Act in place, military pay cannot be guaranteed once that would happen. In an Oct. 10 statement, Cmdr. Bill Urban, the Pentagon press officer, said, “What happens if we bust the debt ceiling is a little unknown at this point. It would depend on how the government prioritized payments, but the Undersecretary of Defense (Comptroller) Robert Hale did say today that it could result in delayed pay to service members despite the Pay Our Military Act.”
In addition, veterans and surviving spouses around the country have begun to receive notice that after Nov. 1, benefits for compensation, education, and pension will cease. Gen. Eric K. Shinseki, secretary of Veterans Affairs, told the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, “If the shutdown continues into late October, November compensation payments to more than 3.8 million veterans will halt. These include thousands of veterans who have the most severe disabilities.” Furthermore, he said, “Pension payments will stop for almost 315,000 veterans and over 202,000 surviving spouses and dependents. As you know, these Veterans have very low incomes and depend heavily upon these benefits.”
The time has come for the people who represent this great nation to remove those scarlet “R’s” and “D’s” from their chests, to work together rather than let their actions be guided by politics. We are better than this. Be united for the common cause of service to country and restore faith in the people who believed in you to serve.
Government shutdown military families politics veterans
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