The way a nation takes care of its veterans says a lot about its values and priorities.
Most Americans agree that if a person is willing to give up their time — not to mention their health and perhaps even their life — to serve their country, the least we can do is treat them well when they leave the military.
Sadly, it looks like the country has a long way to go on veteran’s issues… and one vet just sacrificed almost everything in a tragic protest of how we are failing our servicemen.
On Tuesday, a middle-aged veteran of the Air Force set himself on fire outside the state capitol building in Atlanta, Georgia. The shocking act was apparently meant to draw attention to failures within the Department of Veterans Affairs.
“The 58-year-old man parked his vehicle next to the Capitol around 10:45 a.m., then walked toward the building according to police,” TheBlaze reported.
“He was strapped with some homemade incendiary devices, some firecrackers, and doused himself with some kind of flammable liquid and attempted to set himself on fire,” explained Georgia State Patrol Capt. Mark Perry.
That decision may have meant to be suicidal, but a nearby police officer was able to stop the attempt before it was fatal.
“An off-duty trooper happened to be driving by in his patrol car and realized what was happening. He rushed toward the veteran with a fire extinguisher,” explained TheBlaze.
Even though the fast-thinking officer intervened, the unnamed veteran’s shocking protest will without a doubt scar him for life, if he survives his serious injuries.
“The veteran was rushed to Grady Memorial Hospital with burns covering 85 to 90 percent of his body. His identity has not been released,” TheBlaze continued.
After dealing with the immediate situation, the thoughts of everyone involved turned to one simple but difficult question: Why would a veteran do this?
“It looks like a veteran that was disgruntled with the VA did a personal protest in front of the Capitol which involved gasoline and some fireworks,” explained Commissioner Mark McDonough of the Georgia Department of Public Safety.
Captain Perry confirmed that reason. “He did indicate that he is disgruntled with the V.A. system and was seeking attention for that,” he told the media.
The Department of Veterans Affairs has faced heavy criticism for years, after what seems to be systemic mistreatment of servicemen and women along with dismal wait times for treatments were exposed.
President Donald Trump made reforming and improving the VA one of his core promises to veterans… but that has proved to be easier said than done.
Last year, the president signed the lengthily-titled “Department of Veterans Affairs Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act of 2017,” which is intended to make it easier for the VA to fire bad employees and protect whistle-blowers who report abuses within the system.
President Trump also fired David J. Shulkin, the director of the VA who was put in place by Barack Obama. Trump donated part of his presidential salary to the Department of Veterans Affairs in May, a symbolic gesture that he was taking the problems seriously.
Those who served face many demons, and some deal with them in more positive ways than others. There’s no doubt that this man’s self-destructive decision was tragic and wrong, but it has also forced the country to again acknowledge that we are failing our veterans.
Our men and women in uniform deserve the best care and attention available, and it’s time for America to step up and fix this glaring problem.
If you or someone you know is a veteran who is struggling with self-destructive thoughts, help is available. Veterans and their loved ones can call 1-800-273-8255 and Press 1 to reach the Veterans Crisis Line.
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