Working full-time in a VA hospital, I see the results of the ongoing war in Afghanistan every day. Young people ranging in age from 18 to 25 and older are coming home paralyzed, blind, brain-damaged, burned and more.
Families are transformed into caregivers for the rest of the injured soldier's life. Some families are destroyed because they just can't handle the permanent changes. Many of the injured soldiers have an extremely hard time accepting the fact that they will never be able to do the things they could do before they left. Some even contemplate or attempt suicide. Some become addicted to painkillers because of the intense levels of pain involved with the rehabilitation process.
Unfortunately, it seems as though the general American public has forgotten the fact that we are still fighting a war. Promises of bringing our troops home have folks believing that there is no more fighting. The fact is that the military has had to dedicate an entire hospital to the care and rehab of active duty troops who have been injured in combat. The VA has just completed the construction of two new floors above the Spinal Cord Injury Center at the James A. Haley VA Medical Center in Tampa dedicated to the care and rehab of patients with multiple, permanent injuries. New spinal cord injury centers are being opened across the country to care for VA patients with injuries sustained in combat.
The war isn't over. Middle Eastern countries receiving funding from the United States are still killing our troops while we try to bring democracy to people who just don't want it. Meanwhile, our troops are being permanently injured or killed. And U.S. news channels just don't feel as though the war is all that newsworthy anymore. They figure folks are tired of hearing about the conflicts, so they cover murders, fires and other crimes here in the States with little or nothing about the same events in the Middle East.
We all need to be reminded that the war is still being fought and troops are still being injured and killed. We can't allow ourselves to become complacent about what is still happening to our families and friends. We need to do more than just offer an empty "thank you for your service" to veterans for all they do for our country. We need to relaunch our focus here in the States to stop the fighting overseas and bring home the rest of our troops. Let those countries who don't want us inside their borders fight their own conflicts without billions of U.S. funding.
Let's take the funding we currently spend on people who don't want us and spend it of the ones who need us. Those men and women fought for our rights to maintain our way of life. Let's thank them the right way by not allowing any more of them to run the risk of getting a permanent, life-changing injury fighting a war that no one really wants to fight.
Gail Hartmaier, Tampa
Pope tries peacemaking in Mideast | May 26
Jerusalem peace plan
In his novel The Sum of All Fears, Tom Clancy outlined a plausible solution to the intractable problem of who should govern Jerusalem. His solution was to create a three-mayor system with representatives selected by the pope, the Israelis and the Palestinians, each with equal authority and needing the collaboration of another on any substantive issue.
A major obstacle was resolved and goodwill was built with success and economic stability. Could Jerusalem be the key that unlocks the road to a peaceful Mideast? I think all parties, weary of endless conflict, would welcome the attempt. This pope may be the one leader to execute such a bold strategy.
Kurt Steinmann, Belleair
For transparent spending
The Florida TaxWatch Turkey Report identified $121 million in appropriations that were awarded without transparent and accountable budget standards. One of the 107 projects on the list was the Port of Tampa Bay gantry crane. Adding this crane to the existing infrastructure at the port will be critically important for both Florida and Tampa Bay, as it will help grow and diversify Florida's economy, especially as the Panama Canal expansion is to be completed in 2015.
The gantry crane is a great investment for Florida and will help bolster our competitive advantage as we attempt to increase the capacity of our ports and establish the state as a world trade hub. Unfortunately, this clearly worthy project was added at the last minute during budget conference, after the House and Senate budgets were finalized.
However, just because a project appears in the Turkey Report does not mean TaxWatch thinks it is a bad project. Florida TaxWatch compiles the report to encourage transparent appropriations, so that all of the state's citizens and their elected officials can ask questions and understand what your hard-earned dollars are funding.
I also want to remind citizens that these appropriations were not recommended for veto by the governor; we just ask that he review and vet them to ensure they are good policy. I am sure that while the governor is reviewing the Port of Tampa Bay gantry crane he will see how important it is to the local and state economy.
But my real concern is this: Why would the Legislature wait until the last minute to fund a project so vital to the future growth and economic development of Florida?
Florida needs this crane to promote trade and grow our economy but we also need an open and clear budget process when lawmakers are spending your hard-earned money.
Robert E. Weissert, chief research officer and general counsel, Florida TaxWatch, Tallahassee
Former FSU president suggests senator fill role | May 21
Sham presidential search
Search firm head Bill Funk is running a sham search for FSU's next president, and a majority of the Presidential Search Advisory Committee is complicit in allowing him to circumvent not only Florida's sunshine laws but any standards of what a legitimate academic search should entail.
On May 21, Funk informed the PSAC that he has been unable to persuade any "premium potential candidates" to throw their hats into the ring because there are widespread reports that state Sen. John Thrasher already has an inside track. Funk's advice was to interview only Thrasher and, if the PSAC decides that he isn't their choice, they would be able to convince legitimate candidates to apply and the process would be fair.
But wait a minute. Aside from the fact that Thrasher has not even applied yet, at the PSAC's previous meeting on April 23, Funk informed the committee that "serious candidates" only apply shortly before the deadline in states with open-records laws. Why, then, was the original July 15 deadline removed from FSU's presidential search website? Why doesn't it appear in the Chronicle of Higher Education advertisement that Funk placed? If there is no deadline, how can Funk confidently assert that there will be no further applicants, and more specifically that none will be "premium"?
It isn't the press that has given the impression that the fix is in: It's the actions of Funk and the PSAC leadership. If we want a fair process, if we seek legitimacy, we need to start over. Fire Bill Funk. Add more faculty and student members to the PSAC to ensure that our priorities cannot be trampled upon. Set clear guidelines — including deadlines — for applying. We are not a banana republic; we are Florida State University. We should start acting like it.
Michael Buchler, associate professor, FSU College of Music, Tallahassee
Hopeful outcome in Ukraine election May 27, editorial
U.S. needs Russia
I disagree with the analysis and prescription of integrating Ukraine into the German-dominated European Union. The lessons of the crisis are clear: Clueless U.S. diplomats and EU technocrats, operating on Cold War autopilot, forced a disastrous choice between the EU and Russia on a country at the center of a 1,000-year-old sectarian divide.
The United States needs Russia, not Ukrainian nationalists, as a partner. We should hope that the distant and corrupt government in Kiev adopts a federal system in which eastern regions speak their own language, receive religious leaders without interference and choose their own governors. Furthermore, we should encourage Ukraine to join Russia in a customs union. That entity could then approach and reconcile with the EU.
NATO membership should also be off the table completely. Otherwise this isn't the end of a crisis; it's only the beginning.
Walter Kitchenman, St. Petersburg
Big-buck bosses | May 28
Enough is enough
How much is enough? Apparently there is no top limit. At some point greed is the only reason to accumulate such wealth. No one can possibly spend $68 million a year. It would be interesting to know their net worth.
The 1 percent could (and should) be taxed at 90 percent and still be extremely wealthy.
Alan Raun, Largo