For a country that touts supporting our troops with what seems like every waking breath, we sure do a piss-poor job at it. That’s right, I said it.
You see, “supporting our troops” takes more than just speeches saying that they have the hardest job in the world; it takes more than songs that make us remember their sacrifice; and it takes more than thinking about those who have fallen. Supporting our troops also means supporting the men and women in our military even when we don’t agree with their choices; it means supporting the men and women in our military when they tell us there are flaws in the military system; and it means supporting the men and women in our military when they come home to a country that ultimately doesn’t seem to care about them out of uniform.
Support your trans troops
For 17 years, “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” prevented openly gay or lesbian individuals from serving in the military. Though the policy has recently been reversed, transgender military men and women still face discriminatory policies. In July, President Trump unexpectedly tweeted that transgender men and women would be barred from joining the military.
Then, according to the New York Times, a lower-level judge has blocked a policy that would have begun in 2018 in preventing trans people from enlisting or reenlisting. Despite this, Trump and many of the people who support this policy say having openly transgender members of the military hurts our defense budget, despite evidence by the RAND study that transgender military members who decide to transition would cost less than a tenth of a percent of the military’s health budget. According to The Washington Post, we already spend five times that on Viagra alone. Clearly the U.S. doesn’t mind spending money on medical costs, as long as certain people approve.
Supporting our military means supporting trans military, too.
Support your female troops
If nothing else, you would think that there would be a concerted effort to protect women who enter the military from things like sexual harassment, assault and rape. Yet, 6,172 cases of sexual assault were reported in the military in 2016 alone. Though you could argue that the increased number of reports indicate a stronger sense of trust between military servicemen and women and military officials, that doesn’t change the fact that sexual assault in the military, as Senator Kristen Gilibrand put it, is still the status quo.
The proof? In 2013, Trump tweeted that the thousands of unreported sexual assault incidents in the military were to be expected when you put men and women together. That very tweet had over 20,000 retweets and 14,000 likes. In 2016, Trump defended those same comments.
Supporting our military means making sure that female members don’t have to worry about being attacked by members of their own team.
Support your homeless veterans
According to the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans (NCHV), the adult homeless population is made up of about 11 percent veterans, many of whom are black or hispanic. That means that on any given night, 40,000 men and women that served our country have no place to call home. Yet, society stigmatizes homelessness and in recent years even passed anti-homeless legislation. For example, according to the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty, 18 percent of U.S. cities have laws that prohibit sleeping in public.
While organizations like the NCHV and the Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) has some programs to protect military veterans and keep them out of the streets, clearly something is not working. Veterans come home to face mental illness like PTSD, which can often lead to substance abuse, unemployment, depression and attempted suicide. The NCHV is one of many organizations saying that veterans need programs to help them transition back into civilian life when they lack the social structures and support within their communities.
Supporting the troops means supporting the transitions veterans have to make when they return home.