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Bill Orton
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End the Army's Bull Puckey

by Bill Orton

Friday, April 13, 2007 -- Steer wrestling or body army... Which should the U.S. Army care about?

American military forces fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan already have it tough.

Improvised explosive devices and armor piercing explosives are ripping apart the bodies of U.S. soldiers and marines. Snipers await American patrols to ambush and kill our young men and women.

The advent of body armor has saved lives of warriors who earlier would have died from their wounds, but it also has created the tremendous need for our military to expand health care for injured personnel.

More than 24,000 American military personnel have been maimed and suffer lifetime injuries as a result of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. We owe it to these fine Americans to give them every ounce of effort possible toward their physical rehabilitation and emotional reconstruction.

But resource are tight, says the Bush Administration, as they use budgetary arguments to justify rollbacks in military health care, pensions and other support.

U.S. Rep. Bob Filner (D-San Diego), who chairs the House Committee on Veterans Affairs, blasts the Bush Administration for failing to take seriously the dramatic rise in costs associated with the permanently injured soldiers and marines coming back from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"To me, part of the cost of war is dealing with the veterans," said Filner, in a speech earlier this month.

Filner talked about a Marine who went to a Minnesota veterans hospital and announced that he was having suicidal thoughts. The hospital worker told the Marine that he would have to wait three to four weeks to see a physician.

The Marine left, returned home and killed himself, Filner said.

Yet precisely at the moment of our military's greatest need, as we see cuts in health care for returning veterans, the United States Army is spending millions of dollars sponsoring rodeos.

The use of mules and muleskinners was once an essential part of the U.S. Army. In 1944, mules played a key role in the five-month Battle of Monte Cassino. But the Army is not investing in muleskinning, as useful as though animals might be say on the hunt for terrorists in the mountains of Pakistan or Afghanistan.

The Army is spending about two million dollars a year purely on public relations, as a sponsor of the Professional Bull Riders (PBR) and the Professional Rodeo Cowboys' Association (PRCA).

There's no pack animals being made ready to carry the supplies of the 10th Mountain Division as part of the hunt for Osama Bin Laden. (Remember him?) No one's being trained for the calvary.

No military purpose is served by spending two million dollars on calf roping, steer wrestling, and bull riding.

Now is not the time for our military budget to be squandered on public relations and animal cruelty. Those dollars would far better be spent ensuring that a returning soldier or marine be able to see a medical specialist when they need to confront the demons of war.

I urge that you write to your Member of Congress and tell them that taxpayer dollars should not be spent sponsoring rodeos.

If you wish, you can visit the PETA website, which gives you an easy way to contact Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Army Secretary Pete Green.

We already ask our fighting personnel to make the only real sacrifices being demanded of Americans in this War on Terror. It isn't fair that our brave warriors come home from the battlefield unable to obtain proper medical care while U.S. Army dollars are spent on calf roping, steer wrestling and bull riding.

End the Army's bull puckey.

Bill Orton is a writer and historian living in Long Beach, California.