The Last Battle for Cuban War Veterans

By Aurelio Pedroso  (Progreso Semanal)

Foto: Progreso Semanal

HAVANA TIMES – Out of that great army of old men, in their old uniforms, who might have discovered the smell of death in battlefields far from their homeland’s borders, these are the people who are at the forefront of this significant crowd that deserve a better end. Instead many are living a reality that is far from this universal privilege of free healthcare and low-cost burials.

Everything is so well-organized and every funeral home on the island has a flag and a kind of red velvet cushion where relatives place military medals on top of the victim’s coffin, as a way to showcase them.

By the law of Life, as we normally say here where there is no better consolation, the number of people who have managed to survive their merits before the 1959 Revolution, can be counted on both hands. There also aren’t many survivors who risked their lives when the 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion took place and in the fight against rebel groups in the Escambray mountains or elsewhere, in the early 1960s.

As a result, if we’re talking about war veterans, then we are mainly talking about those young people who left for African lands (in the 70s and 80s) and are in their sixties or seventies today. Many suffer multiple ailments, illnesses and chronic diseases, just like the number of bullets that were fired from their rifles. Not to mention the traumas that are never forgotten, that suddenly appear when they watch a child play “war” or when they are given a cup of coffee and they unconsciously think that it’s enough for four or five people to drink from.

The last battle will be fought on national soil, maybe at Parliament in the voice of a brave legislator, one of their relatives, who asks the Ministry of Revolutionary Armed Forces to bear them in mind.

Some people might think this isn’t the time, but I would dare to say that the Armed Forces’ business group has at least the full capacity to begin this study.

If a professional can earn a higher salary by studying a doctorate, for example, a soldier with medals should receive additional compensation for having put their life on the line in remote jungles or deserts, now that they have one foot in a line to buy something, and the other in the cemetery that is dedicated to their lost brothers in arms.

Let nobody be fooled. The first ones to leave for distant lands before 1975, and a little afterwards until 1977, did so when these medals didn’t exist, which should garner greater moral and economic value for these men who are almost forgotten, except for a special date here and there.

Lots of countries venerate their veterans. Russia, which took the hammer and sickle home as the tools of hard work, and even the US Empire, which is so lavish with its warlike actions, give these men special attention.

A war veteran in Cuba today deserves a lot more than respect. Some of today’s generals were children when these men defended the country and died for many causes I don’t need to mention here.

Of course, none of them went to fight for money, but rice with medals is a difficult meal to swallow.

Read more from Aurelio Pedroso here.