My name is Command Sergeant Major (Retired) Donald McAlister. I would like to introduce myself and why I am compelled to continue to serve our nation's Heroes as a board member of “Square Deal for Vets.”
I recently retired as a Command Sergeant Major with over 24 years of service in the US Army. I am an Airborne Infantryman and have served in every leadership position from Team Leader to Command Sergeant Major. I have served with the best America has to offer. These are soldiers that serve not for money or fame, but instead for the love of their country, their families and their comrades at arms. I have deployed to combat five times, twice to Iraq and three times to Afghanistan. I have seen the wounds both visible and invisible that war causes, to the soldier and the family.
I was severely wounded on my first deployment in Iraq, but I was compelled to get back into the fight. At that time, I had been married for ten years. I had a five-year-old daughter, a seven-year-old daughter, and a ten-year-old daughter. My children had to see their Daddy at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center. They could not understand why their Daddy was hurt and, moreover, why I was being deployed to Iraq a second time. I explained to my children that I was a soldier. I had a duty to ensure that they grow up knowing that there are men and women that are doing their part to keep our country safe and free.
All too often we forget about the struggle military families face. They are the ones that bear the brunt of the burden; especially when their soldier is wounded or killed. For most families, the war is never over, and they must confront it daily. Now with five deployments, my wife of 23 years, and my grown daughters, my family understands why I was compelled to serve. Moreover, why I want to continue to serve our nation's heroes. They are warriors in every sense of the word, as well as any other military family!
Over the years I have seen many soldiers wounded or killed on combat deployments. And if you asked a wounded soldier if they would do it all over again? You would get a resounding yes! The price that they and their families pay is immeasurable. There are so many scars we can see, but there are many we cannot. These scars never go away, but can be mended if soldiers have the care they need. Their spouses or caregivers carry the weight of their situation on their shoulders, and yet they must navigate a VA system that is broken. We have all seen the horror stories on the news about the VA, and this is not acceptable!
Over the years I have seen the struggles many soldiers face when transitioning from the military healthcare system to the VA healthcare system. This process should be transparent and intuitive, but it is not. A soldier who has served their country to the fullest should never be forgotten or lost in a system of bureaucracy. Veterans should be able to trust that there is a system that is designed around getting them the treatment they need. I can tell you that right now that is not the case.
It is an absolute honor for me to serve as a board member for Square Deal for Vets! We owe so much to these great Americans who volunteered to wear this nation's uniform! We will fight to ensure that every one of them gets the square deal that they were promised!