Last Saturday, July 20th, was Colombia’s Independence Day. During the patriotic celebration, there was a moment that caught the attention of the media. A strong hug and tears were shared between the President, Iván Duque, and a policeman, José Fernando Carvajal Rueda, who lost both legs after stepping on a land mine last year. (See video).
I don’t know what motivated the President to walk over the serviceman in the middle of the parade, but as a regular citizen, the image of a disabled law enforcement officer or soldier, fills me up with gratitude. Their sacrifice ensures my safety, a life free from the dangers and horrors of war.
In Colombia, like in the United States, the military is a top priority for the government and the national budget. However, there are abysmal differences between both countries in their treatment of retired service men and women.
In the U.S., veterans have an entire department to administer their benefits. The mission of the Department of Veterans Affairs, known as VA, is to fulfill President Lincoln’s promise “To care for him who shall have born the batte, and for his widow, and for his orphan,” by serving and honoring the men and women who are America’s veterans.
Besides healthcare and rehabilitation, vets have access to a range of services to facilitate their return to civilian life, such as college scholarships and job training. Moreover, their families are also beneficiaries.
Notwithstanding, suicide rates among vets have remain steady for years reporting an average of 16 per day. Including active duty members the number raises to 20 per day.
Colombia, in comparison, provides benefits for active duty members only. Retired police and military members cease to exist in their healthcare system once they leave the ranks–whether a voluntary choice or due to a disability–unless they sue the government.
Military service in the USA is voluntary. In Colombia, it is mandatory. That difference alone should be the reason to guarantee benefits to those who have to risk their lives and their families for the homeland.
PTSD, drug addiction, schizophrenia. and depression, among other mental illnesses can not be remedied with a prosthetic. On the contrary, these are silent, invisible wounds that thousands of Colombian vets carry in their souls.
So, to those who relentlessly look for examples of injustice in the United States I say, read about or visit other countries and see the cruelty committed against the heroes that bleed for their nation but are forgotten everyday.
Thank you for reading and sharing.