Today is our 3,002nd day in Iraq and our 3,530th day in Afghanistan.
We'll start this morning as we always do; with the latest casualty figures from our ongoing wars, courtesy of Antiwar.com:
Since war began (3/19/03): 4454
Since "Mission Accomplished" (5/1/03): 4313
Since Handover (6/29/04): 3595
Since Obama Inauguration (1/20/09): 226
Since Operation New Dawn: 36
Other Coalition Troops - Iraq: 318
US Military Deaths - Afghanistan: 1,605
Other Military Deaths - Afghanistan: 906
Contractor Employee Deaths - Iraq: 1,487
Journalists - Iraq: 348
Academics Killed - Iraq: 448
We find this morning's Cost of War
passing through: $ 1, 205, 431, 300, 000 .00
The economy continues to dominate the headlines, and it's come out recently that the housing market is now experiencing a 'double-dip' recession. But for our returning veterans, there was never any kind of recovery in the first place. While the national unemployment rate is hovering around 9%, it's 3 percentage points higher
for veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan (although the overall veteran's percentage is a bit lower than the national average).
May employment numbers from the Labor Department show little improvement in the job market, especially for veterans.
Overall, the report shows the national unemployment rate is 9.1 percent, with little change in the last month because the economy created only 54,000 net jobs in May.
The May report, released on Friday, shows a worsening job market for veterans.
For veterans of all generations, the unemployment rate for May was 8.3 percent. For veterans who left the military after 2001, the Iraq and Afghanistan generation, the May unemployment rate is 12.1 percent. For April, the overall unemployment rate for veterans was 7.7 percent, and the unemployment rate for Iraq- and Afghanistan-era veterans was 11.7 percent.
Marshall Hanson of the Reserve Officers Association said the unemployment picture is even worse for some segments of the veterans’ population. For veterans ages 20 to 24, the unemployment rate has been about 27 percent. For Army National Guard units returning from deployment, unemployment rates are “as high as 45 percent,” Hanson said June 1 in testimony before the House Veterans Affairs Committee.
Tackling unemployment is the top priority for veterans’ service organizations, which met earlier this week with House Republican leaders to press the point. The lawmakers reacted immediately, with Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fla., announcing he was working on legislation to find jobs for 400,000 veterans over two years or less to drop the overall veterans’ unemployment rate to 4.5 percent.
There also is large and growing bipartisan support for a bill, the Hiring Heroes Act of 2011, that takes a comprehensive approach to changing Labor, Veterans and Defense Department programs aimed at helping veterans find jobs. The chief sponsor of that bill is Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee chairwoman.
Raine has been taking point on the next topic...which is related to the ongoing abuse of our female soldiers by both their colleagues and private contractors. Two Democratic congressmen have proposed a bill
that would give women in uniform the same rights as other federal employees...and would allow military hospitals to perform abortions. You probably just heard a nearby Republican's head explode.
WASHINGTON — Women in the military who are victims of rape or incest could get an abortion at a military hospital under legislation proposed by two New York Democrats.
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand and Rep. Louise Slaughter said their bill, reintroduced Monday, would give women in the military the same rights as other federal employees.
The Defense Department reported 3,158 sexual assaults involving military personnel last year, according to the two lawmakers.
Current military policy requires women who want an abortion — regardless of the reason — to seek the procedure at an off-base medical facility at their own expense. Under the legislation, women in the military would still have to pay for the procedure.
In some countries — such as Afghanistan and Iraq — there are no off-base medical facilities and women must pay to travel to another country, according to Bethany Lesser, a spokeswoman for Gillibrand.
The 1976 Hyde Amendment bars the federal government from using taxpayer money to pay for abortions — or allowing abortions to be performed at federal facilities — but exceptions have been made for rape, incest and to save the life of the mother.
Those exceptions have not applied to the Defense Department’s budget, according to Victoria Dillon, a spokeswoman for Slaughter.
The legislation, the MARCH for Military Women Act (Military Access to Reproductive Care and Health), has been proposed in previous Congresses without being enacted.
Finally this morning...we'll pause for a bona-fide hero. While the term is used at the drop of a hat by the media (which cheapens the term for everyone), Sfc Leroy Petry truly and honourably earned that honorific. It's been all over facebook, but just in case you missed it:
Last week it was announced that Army Sgt. 1st Class Leroy Arthur Petry would soon receive the Medal of Honor. Although there have been nine recipients of this award from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Petry is only the second to have survived the combat action that earned him America's highest award for combat heroism.
As the secretary of the Congressional Medal of Honor Foundation, I am delighted that we now have two young men (Petry and Staff Sgt. Salvatore Giunta) who will, for many decades, join their fellow recipients in preserving the legacy of this iconic award.
The Medal of Honor is awarded to members of the Armed Forces who distinguish themselves conspicuously by gallantry and intrepidity above and beyond the call of duty.
The meritorious conduct must involve great personal bravery or self-sacrifice so conspicuous as to clearly distinguish the individual above his or her comrades and must have involved risk of life. There must be incontestable proof of the performance of the meritorious conduct, and each recommendation for the award must be considered on the standard of extraordinary merit.
During the combat action, Petry was shot through both legs. Fighting off the pain, he continued to engage a determined and aggressive enemy in an intense firefight. A live enemy grenade landed near two of Petry's fellow soldiers. Rather than diving for cover, Petry, ignoring his wounds, grabbed the grenade and tossed it away in order to protect his comrades-in-arms. As the grenade was leaving his hand, it exploded, blowing off Petry's right hand and causing other injuries. His quick and heroic action prevented the injury and possible death of his two buddies.