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I took my dad to see The Wall for the first time about 10 years ago and I snapped this photo. This man, my father, fought for this country, and he bears the scars to prove it. When he came home, he continued to give - paid his taxes, worked his ass off - and the Department of Veterans Affairs rewarded him by cutting his benefits. That's how our government "supports the troops."

I took my dad to see The Wall for the first time about 10 years ago and I snapped this photo. This man, my father, fought for this country, and he bears the scars to prove it. When he came home, he continued to give - paid his taxes, worked his ass off - and the Department of Veterans Affairs rewarded him by cutting his benefits. That's how our government "supports the troops."

My father is a Marine who served three tours in Vietnam. He’s been out of that war now, physically, for almost 50 years, but some parts of him have never left. He recently had his VA disability benefits cut after beating the same cancer – Mantle Cell Lymphoma – three times. It will likely be coming back again, according to his doctors at City of Hope. The thing is, almost everybody who’s diagnosed with Mantle Cell Lymphoma was in Vietnam. It’s linked to exposure to Agent Orange, which was a deforestation chemical used during the war. He was a CH-53 helicopter crew chief in Vietnam, flying primarily Med-Evac. He made it home with a bum knee as his only physical ailment from the war, but the real wounds were deeper than that.

As far as I can tell, when somebody goes into combat, there are three possible outcomes:

1)            They are killed.

2)            They are wounded, survive, and are sent home with physical, mental, and emotional scars.

3)            They are not wounded, and are sent home with mental and emotional scars.

They all pay a price for war, with no exceptions.

I believe the best way to support the troops is not to send them to war in the first place. That’s not to say there will never be a war again, but I don’t believe we should ever go to war if it is not in direct defense of the United States of America.

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But if we do have to send brave men and women into combat, when they come home, they should not have to wait an extra minute or spend an extra dollar to get any physical or mental healthcare they require. They should all have a roof over their heads. They should all have support structures in place. This is a moral issue, so the question isn’t “can we afford it?” it’s “how do we pay for it?”

And what isn’t supporting the troops? Voting for candidates who needlessly send them to war, and who don’t provide adequate funding for their care when they get home. It doesn’t matter how many yellow ribbons you’ve tied, or how many stickers you have on your car, or how straight you stand during the National Anthem, or how loudly you recite the Pledge of Allegiance, or whether you fly a flag in front of your house, or sharing a post on Facebook or Twitter. Those are symbolic gestures, but in reality they do very little to actually support the troops.

They need real support, not symbolism.