Report To General Shinseki - by Thomas Michael Barnes
This is a novel, a piece of fiction.  It uses some real people in real positions of authority in our government to make the book realistic and give it impact.  It does not pretend to be a history relative to what these people think, say or relative to what actions they take.  It is a novel and should be read that way.
This book was written out of my own personal experiences with fellow veterans.  I am a retired Coast Guard warrant officer with over twenty four years active service and I am a totally disabled individually unemployable veteran.  This is normally termed an IU disabled veteran in the jargon of veteran’s disability adjudication prevalent in the early part of the 21st Century.  It means that I am too disabled to find fulltime, steady and meaningful work.  So I write.  It fills the time and gives my life context (there is that word again!). 
Above all else, veterans and especially disabled veterans want to be understood. They may or may not be able to fully communicate their Service experience to someone else.  That all depends on the mind set of the veteran and on whether that experience was mundane or horrific. Service life is often both of these. In any event, no veteran of the armed forces wants to be seen as a whiner, slacker or ward of the State.  That is especially true of those who have seen combat or intense hostile action as in Coast Guard units in a drug interdiction at sea that has gone bad. (I have personal experience with that last scenario.)
At the same time, these men and women do not want to be ignored when they have legitimate needs that are frustrated by a government bureaucracy ferociously attempting to keep costs down and therefore keep pensions and benefits minimal at the expense of the individual veteran’s quality of life.  Veterans constantly find themselves fighting with their own government to have benefits delivered in a timely fashion with fair adjudication by professional staffers.  The fight can be hellish, especially if the veteran is disabled.  It is not a pleasant experience to be a disabled veteran.  Ask anyone who is dealing with that situation.
This novel is an attempt by one disabled veteran to get the reader inside the mind of the American disabled veteran.  His complexion and his mind set might have changed from one time period to the next in our history. But his need to be understood by the government that placed him or her in harm’s way remains a constant variable that must always stay in the forefront of the interaction between the two parties, i.e. veteran and government.
 I want to thank all American veterans of all time periods for putting on a uniform and taking up arms at the order of their government to ostensibly protect home and hearth, to keep the trade lanes open for American commerce and to defend the American way of life from all encroachment from without or within.  Sometimes those fights were righteous, sometimes they weren’t.  But the American veteran lives knowing that when he or she was asked to shoulder the burden of national defense, he/she did just that.  If historians later decide that his or her efforts were manipulated due to political forces outside of their control, veterans do not share in the responsibility for that deliberate misdirection of national purpose. They followed legal orders.  They manned the barricades. They believed that their national leaders knew what they were doing when they asked them to take up arms. They put themselves in harm’s way to protect their communities.  That is a hero.
My primary point here as earlier stated is that if it is determined years later that their efforts were in vain or that they were blatantly used by political elites for purposes that were less than honorable, the veteran does not share in that shame or in the blame.  He or she fought the good fight and did so in good faith.  He or she trusted that their leaders knew what they were doing when they sent them into danger.  Veterans must never be dishonored for trusting legally elected officials to do their duty when committing them to potential combat and the very real threat of death. If that trust was betrayed by lesser men and women in power, it does not cheapen the faithfulness of the veteran to duty, honor, country.
For that trust, I salute all veterans and I thank them for their service to our people and our national ideals.
CWO3 (PERS) Tom Barnes, USCG (Ret)
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