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John Cory: By the Numbers

By the Numbers

By John Cory
t r u t h o u t | Perspective

By the numbers we count the fallen
And all the syllables that kill
And all the lies that bury hearts
And make our breathing still
And cold.

By the numbers we mourn the fallen
In this whirlwind of war and lie
Where one tear is too many
And a thousand not enough
For each one that has to die
Because -


- John Cory

While the high school heathers of the press corps rush to generate in-depth analysis of the hairstyle and cleavage of candidates or who looks presidential as opposed to who acts presidential, the real issues get shuttled aside in polls and punditry and primary politico-image management.

At some point there will be one of those staged affairs where they take questions from the audience, the everyday folk - the voters. So let me step up to the microphone and ask a question:

When does 9/11 + 935 = 3,941?

When lies kill.

Nine hundred thirty-five false statements (lies) moved this nation into a war that has resulted in 3,941 deaths so far.

The folks who see profit and growth in the numbers of veterans of this war - the health care insurers - know an opportunity when they see one. In her December 2007 report, Emily Berry for American Medical News gives us a tour by the numbers:

There have been 30,000 troops wounded in action; 39,000 have been diagnosed with PTSD; 84,000 vets suffer a mental health disorder; 229,000 veterans have sought VA care, and 1.4 million troops (active duty and reserves) have been deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan so far. Estimates run between $350 billion to $700 billion needed for lifetime care and benefits for veterans.

And now, making the rounds in Washington is a plan that has become known as "The Psychological Kevlar Act of 2007" which reaches out to the pharmaceutical industry to partner with the Department of Defense to use the drug Propranalol to treat symptoms of PTSD even before a soldier succumbs to full-blown PTSD. An ounce of prevention, after all, is worth funding for experimentation, I mean research. A numb soldier is a happy soldier.

If you haven't visited Penny Coleman, you really ought to drop by and read up on her articles. Thanks to Penny and people like my friend Miss Remy, we learn the truth about the terrible sweet beauty we call war. The price - human toll - and numbers.

A CBS study of 45 states over the past 12 years reveals disturbing and tragic patterns of suffering veterans, whether Korean Conflict, Vietnam War or the newer versions, Iraq and Afghanistan. In 2005 alone, there were 6,256 veteran suicides. That's 120 every week, or an average of 17 suicides every day.

The Bush administration has no waiting period to go to war, only waiting lines that take months to treat veterans and provide the health care they need. It is an amazing irony that Bush has presided over the longest delays and waiting periods for veterans in VA history, and yet he has generated more veterans faster than most any other administration. As the Democratic Policy Committee pointed out in 2004: "During Bush's four years in office, the average millionaire has received a tax break of $123,000. In contrast, President Bush has broken all previous records for fees paid by veterans - proposing to collect $1.3 billion from veterans themselves in 2005, a 478 percent increase during his time in office."

I know this issue about veterans care won't poll well for the presidential primaries or even for television debates. After all, how many debates and candidate talks even acknowledge the war, let alone its aftermath?

I know, there are the economy and jobs, health care for everyone, the loss of privacy amid the ruins of greed and corporate malfeasance. These are important and more glamorous topics to be debated. They give sizzle to what passes as journalism and media coverage these days.

So why is this so important to me that I would take up your valuable time? Because it is our soul, the very soul of America that is in pain and jeopardy.

If we cannot care for our veterans, what makes you think any of these politicians will care for the citizens?

If you take all those numbers above and multiply them by the members of families and wives and children and friends, well, the effect is mind-boggling and touches every one of us. And yet the number "1" can affect them all.

One person can soothe the midnight tremors and hold us quietly in the dark when the demons and ghosts hang on the corners of our pillows. One person can hire a veteran so we can fill a heart full of holes. One person knows seven others who know seven others and pretty soon they know a veteran, and now fifty people reach out and become a part of the power that heals - all because of one.

My friend Britta Reque-Dragicevic is writing a book on PTSD because she has come to know and care and wants to do something. Her sister has just completed a tour in Iraq as a combat medic, Britta is a journalist who knows firsthand the price of war. She has covered war in Sarajevo and other places around this globe. And, of course, Britta and Miss Remy are joined at the heart. And that makes them aces in my book.

I care so much because I've known the madness of war and the insanity of returning only to be told to wait or ignored or having to fight tooth and nail for a friend who needed the VA and couldn't get in and took his life. I know what it is to feel like a thousand-piece jigsaw puzzle but all the pieces are olive drab or sky blue and no matter how hard I tried to make them fit, I kept ending up with a thousand little tiles that had no rhyme or reason or shape. I know the smell of lonely rain and empty streets that hang between there and yesterday on the border of here and now.

So let the politicians blather and blab. Give me a vet on a midnight afternoon who needs my ear for a while and we'll wait until they gather us up and then we'll step up to the microphone and ask:

If one tear is too many and a thousand not enough, what will it take?



John Cory is a Vietnam veteran. He received the Purple Heart and Bronze Star with V device, 1969 - 1970. Visit his website at

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