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Weekly Features
Letter from New York
Mathew Tombers is Managing Director of Intermat, Inc., ( a television company which executive produces programs and consults with industry companies on a variety of issues. Intermat, Inc. is currently involved in approximately thirty hours of television in various stages for a variety of networks. He is one of the Executive Producers of OFF TO WAR, a ten hour series for Discovery Times and for a one hour on international adoptions for Discovery Health. He has consulted a variety of companies, including Ted Turner Documentaries, WETA, Betelgeuse Productions, and Creation Films, Lou Reda Productions as well as many others.

December 8, 2007

Thinking of soldiers.

Last month was the celebration of Veteran's Day, a day that was born in the last century to recall the 11th day of the 11th month at the 11th hour in which the guns ceased to fire in the War to End All Wars. Also known as WWI. Now we know that it wasn't that. The painful price extracted from Germany gave Adolf Hitler an opening to bring his mad politics to bear on a beaten country. Since the end of WWII, we've had other wars, one after another - conflagrations that haven't engulfed the world but have certainly shaped generations.

I am a baby boomer. Viet Nam shaped us whether or not we were asked to serve, had high lottery numbers, deferments because of physical ailments or any other configuration of dealing with the military demands of the draft at that time.

The Baby Boomer Generation was shaped, formed, molded, melted by Viet Nam. It haunts us now and will to the day we die.

On Veteran's Day, a Holiday, I was, of course, not taking a Holiday but was working. However, I was listening to all the reports on NPR that related to Veteran's Day. 1 out of 4 homeless is a veteran. It shocked me but it's true. A disproportionate number of homeless have served their country in the military.

The other thing I was listening to were the stories of men and women returning from Iraq and attempting to deal with the re-immersion into a world where their lives weren't threatened every moment. Mothers had trouble reconnecting with their children. Men could not find places in the work place; they did not want to answer the questions their friends had about their service. To, at least one, it felt as if he was being asked to provide "pornography" to his questioners.

The day after Veteran's Day, with all these thoughts in my mind, I was moving about New York in a rather normal way. Descending into the Grand Central Subway Station there is a place at the bottom of the escalator that is often inhabited by beggars. Like most people, I walk by them, not ever knowing what to do with them. That day the man was in a wheelchair, legless, with a sign that said: veteran, homeless, needs help. Maybe it was a lie, maybe it was true; either way I gave him money.

We have created such a complex set of situations with our veterans. I know no one who does not support the men and women in Iraq regardless of their support for the war itself. We are not supporting them the way I would like us to. And while there was a time when there was a great brouhaha about the conditions at Walter Reed it has quieted down. Have the issues been resolved? Or have we just lost interest?

My brother-in-law, with whom I am often on the other side of the political fence, forwarded to me some touching photos of American soldiers interfacing with Iraqi citizens - some of those photos brought tears to my eyes and the truth of them is that we have not given enough shrift to the good we're doing - though we would not need be worried about that if we had not created this horrific mess.

During Viet Nam we reviled the soldiers as well as the governmental policies that directed their actions. In Iraq, we have matured enough to separate the people from the government. [Well we still have to deal with Abu Ghrab and that's not pretty.] However, despite Abu Ghrab, it's my belief that most of the men and women in uniform in Iraq are individuals of honor who are caught in a dreadful situation.

I am in pain that they are there. I think back to the young man on the train that I met some months ago. I thought he was dealing with a ski accident; the reality was that he was dealing with mortar wounds. I don't know where he is but I pray for him whenever I turn to God about this idiotic war which surrounds us. He was full of honor.