The current situation in Iraq is, from my perspective, the epitome of irony. On the one hand, the vitriolic ideological battles at home between the President and the new congress have put to bed any notion of “bipartisanship.” But on the other hand, I find it nauseating that while we fight about the war at home, those actually fighting the war itself are often forgotten.
This shameful fact was graphically demonstrated in a recent article in People magazine. While running on the treadmill last week, I came across an article about Ty and Renee Ziegel, a young couple who are coping with the very real results of warfare. While congressional democrats opposing Bush’s plan to send additional troops to Iraq are careful to note their concern for and support of our troops, many troops and their families, like the Ziegel’s have to search a bit to find any support.
Engaged when Ty was deployed to Iraq, the couple spent months apart from each other. Then, in late 2003, Ty became the victim of a roadside bomb that while thankfully sparing his life, also left him without a left arm, and barely recognizable. The touching article talked about Renee’s commitment to her fiancé, and their subsequent wedding, and I confess that this moving story about the love between these two moved my own emotions.
But two paragraphs later, my sentimentality quickly turned to anger when I read that Renee is still forced by their financial situation to work part-time. While this supplementary income, in addition to Ty’s army pension, keeps the young couple afloat, her part-time work keeps her from her husband’s side . . . the place where she really wants to be.
Immediately, I thought of all our “elected officials,” who from the day they enter office, are the beneficiaries of six-figure salaries and the best health care plans money can buy . . .all at taxpayer expense mind you. A President can send over 21,000 soldiers into battle, and will be taken care of for the rest of his life. A congressman can cut off funding to those same 21,000 soldiers while still enjoying his publicly funded healthcare and retirement. But those actually doing the fighting, even those severely injured, require the part-time employment of their spouse in order to make ends meet. This is the travesty of all travesties!
Whether you are a supporter or dissenter regarding the conflict in Iraq, all of us have a solemn responsibility to do what we can to ensure that those protecting our freedoms abroad are taken care of. When politicians are making a “career” out of a job that was never meant as a career, while at the same time career soldiers are having to seek second jobs and apply for government assistance in order to stay financially soluable, something is wrong.
The Old Testament prophets Hosea and Amos spoke sternly to those with wealth and power who took advantage of those in a lower socio-economic class. In the New Testament, James has equally strong words to the rich. It appears that such words now need to be spoken on the floor of the United States Senate, the floor of the House, and the Oval Office.
Thoughts of the wounded, the grief-stricken survivors of those who have been casualties of war, and the financial strains of both of these groups should riddle with guilt the conscience of every lawmaker in congress . . . every time they cash their exorbant paychecks.
What is the right thing to do? I’m sure this sounds radical, but it is right nonetheless. The public should, if it is possible, reach into the chambers of the House and Senate, reach into the confines of the Oval, reach into the recesses of the Supreme Court, and take away the big salaries. Take away all the health benefits . . . .and give it to soldiers like Ty Ziegel.
Political office was never intended as an avenue of personal gain. Furthermore, it is not the legislature, the judiciary, or the executive branch that guarantees our freedom. Congress retains the ability to make law at the pleasure of the people because of the soldiers. The President executes his office in security because of the soldiers. Judges adjudicate without duress because of the soldiers. And this nation is free because of the soldiers.
To get closer to home: I am called to preach the Gospel, and to do so “in season and out of season.” I could have been born in the Sudan, or in another nation where preaching the Gospel carried severe penalties. I could be preaching today under the threat of the persecution of me and my family. But I am not. I am preaching without fear of persecution or aggression. And I am doing it because of men like Ty Ziegel. That he and Renee are struggling to make ends meet after the sacrifice he made for his country is an embarrassment to this nation. Men like Ziegel should never worry again about putting food on the table. All expenses should be paid . . .courtesy of those of us who benefit from his sacrifice. And such expenses should be allocated, courtesy of those we place in office to do the right thing.
Personally, I believe that history will judge that this war was indeed just. While the road to freedom in Iraq has been far from perfect, the service of our military forces has been exemplary, and there is now a democracy in, of all places, the middle east! But any soiled reputation our country wears for not taking care of our own, we deserve!