Bergdahl, VA Scandals Show Gap Between Rhetoric and Reality of Service

Bergdahl, VA Scandals Show Gap Between Rhetoric and Reality of Service

Underneath the politicking, exaggeration and sensationalism, the angry national conversations about wait times for veterans’ health care, on the one hand, and the alleged transgressions of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, on the other, have offered a clear window into some rough realities of military life. Americans have learned a number of things in recent days that, judging by the evidence, we would rather not know.

The release of audits of the workings of the Veterans’ Administration confirmed that too often whole branches of government charged with meeting our commitment to care for veterans have resorted to deception and dishonesty instead of facing problems openly.

The release of emails and the re-examination of the record around the capture of Bergdahl confirmed, at minimum, that joining the military is no antidote for saying and doing intemperate and foolish things. American soldiers and their families are not perfect, stoic, uncomplaining patriots. The fact that any Americans believe this highlights just how divorced from military realities the 99 percent of us who don’t serve are. (Perhaps it would help if American history courses included as part of their reading lists Catch-22, M*A*S*H or any of the excellent, searing memoirs of our more recent wars—such as Love My Rifle More Than You—which don’t sugarcoat what it’s like to serve or whitewash the range of responses from those who do.)

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