December 12, 2018
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US veterans don’t need a parade. They need better health care.

KRT via AP Video | BDN
KRT via AP Video | BDN
In this image made from video by North Korea's KRT, military tanks are seen during a parade in Pyongyang, North Korea Thursday, Feb. 8, 2018. North Korea held a military parade and rally on Kim Il Sung Square on Thursday, just one day before South Korea hosts the opening ceremony of the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics.

President Donald Trump says he wants a parade of U.S. military hardware to let our service personnel know how much they are appreciated.

There are much better ways to thank and support our troops and veterans than wasting millions of dollars on a parade that would look like it belonged in Pyongyang rather than Washington.

Take the suggestion from RobertKW, which was the most popular comment on a Wednesday Washington Post story about the parade idea: “How about we take the parade money and spend it on VA hospitals? The soldiers might appreciate that.” His comment was liked by more than 1,200 people.

The severity of mistreatment of veterans and difficulty of accessing care at Veterans Administration medical facilities came to light in 2014 when VA employees in Phoenix were caught falsifying records to make it look like veterans were receiving timely care. At least 40 veterans died while on a “ secret waiting list,” which was created by Phoenix VA officials to hide the fact that many veterans waited months for care.

Despite congressional demands for more accountability and increased federal funding, problems persist at VA facilities. A report by the Government Accountability Office found that the VA failed to report 90 percent of potentially dangerous medical providers to a national database meant to ensure they didn’t endanger patients in the future.

“This mismanagement is breathtaking,” Rep. Bruce Poliquin said to VA officials during a House Veterans Affairs Committee hearing on the report in November. Poliquin recounted the case of podiatrist Thomas Franchini, whom the VA found had harmed 88 veterans but was not reported to state licensing boards for years. One veteran in Maine, April Wood, had her leg amputated rather than continue to endure ongoing pain after surgeries by Franchini.

This horrifying treatment of veterans won’t be improved with a parade.

Appreciating veterans and military personnel doesn’t have to involve congressional hearings and budget debates. We could better support veterans and military personnel by listening to these men and women and heeding their requests for seemingly simple things like help finding a suitable job after a long deployment or understanding where they served and what jobs they did or having someone to talk to. Reader’s Digest compiled a list of 45 things they wish American civilians knew and did. Trump should give it a read.

“When we get back, we don’t need huge parties or gifts. We need the small things: someone to listen to us, make us a meal, watch our kids,” said Ret. Army Staff Sgt. April Martinez.

“When people say, ‘Thank you for your service,’ I sometimes have the sense that they don’t know what they’re thanking you for. What I appreciated after I got back was when people thanked me, asked what I did in the military, and listened. Even better was when I said, ‘I was on patrol in Kandahar,’ and they knew where it was,” recalled former Air Force Capt. Brian Castner.

“When veterans first return, they’re flooded by well wishes and meals, but then those stop. That’s when they need help. Insist they join you for dinner or a walk. Your insistence could save his or her life,” former Army Capt. Stephen Clark told the magazine.

No fanfare is needed, or wanted. Instead, offer a helping hand, a sympathetic (and knowledgeable) ear, a spot at the dinner table and an invitation to the weekly pickup basketball game.

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