Recent editorials from Georgia newspapers:

___

The Daily Citizen-News on honoring veterans:

You may have seen them in our newspaper, including one in today’s edition.

They are stories about men from Whitfield and Murray counties who were killed in Vietnam.

Their stories of patriotism, selflessness and honor are being beautifully told by former staff writer Mark Millican, himself a veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps. The Daily Citizen-News is running a series of stories profiling the 17 veterans of Whitfield and Murray counties who lost their lives during the Vietnam War.

It is easy to honor and celebrate those who have served in our armed forces on Veterans Day in November, and to venerate our beloved soldiers who have died in the call of duty while serving in those armed forces in May on Memorial Day.

But it is important to remember their sacrifices, their commitment to our country, throughout the year, and Mark’s stories are an excellent way of doing that and of reminding us of what service to country is.

And Vietnam is also a special case.

A deeply unpopular war that divided the country, it resulted in some of our soldiers suffering indignities upon their return, being called “baby killers” or even spit upon.

Kyle Longley, author of “Grunts: The American Combat Soldier in Vietnam,” addressed this phenomenon in an opinion piece in The New York Times in 2017:

“Long after the war ended, the idea of the Vietnam veteran as an amoral, drug-addled, even psychopathic baby killer pervaded American culture, cropping up in films like ‘Taxi Driver,’ ‘First Blood’ and ‘Jacob’s Ladder.’ But those stereotypes are flawed. A vast majority of Americans who served never committed atrocities; they fought bravely against a determined enemy in harsh conditions, and they reintegrated into society and made substantial contributions over the years.”

That description of fighting bravely describes the soldier profiled in today’s paper, Kenneth Ogles.

His brother Jerry said Kenneth was “excited at the prospect of bringing the fruits of liberty to a people whose culture and values were alien to his thinking. He truly believed that his going to Vietnam would make a difference in the lives of the men, women and children who had endured savage tyranny under a host of despotic rulers and ideologies. This was the fulfillment of his life’s dream.”

As you can see, Mark is capturing the lives of these men well.

He has previously written in a column for the Daily Citizen-News in 2018, “The return of the bodies of our troops from a foreign battlefield in flag-draped caskets elicits a visceral response from many Americans. These are the men, and sometimes in modern warfare, the women, who have paid the ultimate price to protect our freedom.”

He has described what it was like for him to write similar profiles of Gilmer County veterans who were killed in Vietnam.

“Writing about these veterans who were killed, and those who remembered them, was personally rewarding. In 1973, I registered for the draft as a high school senior. It was the same year we began pulling troops out of Vietnam, and I was never drafted. But the unrest of those years I remember well. I believe it was therapeutic for those who helped me write, and likewise for other older folks who recall those tumultuous years and read the stories. These were the returning war veterans, after all, who were sometimes spit upon in airports and called ‘baby killers’ when they arrived back in the States.”

Of the Whitfield and Murray County men killed in action, he implored, “Let’s salute them all in 2021-22.”

He is doing that, and our newspaper is blessed by the stories.

We encourage you to read them, to think meaningfully about them, and to honor these men and others who have honored us with their service, not just today and not just on holidays, but all year long.

___

The Brunswick News on improving mental health services:

When street people displaying anti-social behavior are too much for even devout and reputable Christian-based organizations to handle, lock the door. There’s a problem.

In the past several weeks, the Salvation Army and The Well found it necessary to summon police to separate situations. The Salvation Army called city police to remove a man who was engaged in a fracas with another individual at its shelter. Some days later, city police responded to a request at The Well to compel a woman who had relieved herself on the street near the shelter to leave the area. Police took prompt care of the complaint in each incident.

The Salvation Army and The Well acted correctly. Neither is equipped to deal with this kind of misconduct. Volunteers at both do a great job tending to those who require help and temporary shelter.

Police also did their jobs. They performed their duty. They removed problems.

But what’s next for these and other individuals like them? Do they continue to roam the streets and commit the same offenses over and over again?

No one wants that, but until communities across this nation find a way to properly deal with them, expect repeated incidents. Ordering someone to go elsewhere is only sweeping an obvious problem under the rug. It’s moving it from one area to another area. It yields the same effectiveness as howling at the moon.

There’s a chance one or both of these individuals may be afflicted with a mental health issue. It could be a simple problem that could be corrected with medication.

Sadly, no one will ever know unless the state comes up with a better system of dealing with individuals with mental illness. Up to now, in many instances, incarceration has been the routine response. But jail is not the answer. It’s inhumane to lock up a person who is unaware of his or her offensive behavior. It resolves nothing.

City and county leaders need to take the pressure off their respective police departments and demand legislators do a better job at providing assistance to men and women who are mentally ill. It’s unfair to police, to the community and to those with a mental illness to continue along the path the state has taken, which is to throw these people in jail and charge them as criminals.

Our commissioners have mouths. Talk to the delegation. Demand better for the people you serve. That includes the mentally ill.

___

The Valdosta Daily Times on election reform and voter fraud:

Georgia lawmakers should stop pandering and start legislating.

It is shocking to see lawmakers push for election reform while acknowledging there was no widespread voter fraud in the general election or Senate runoff. But they claim reform is necessary because a lot of their constituents believe widespread voter fraud occurred.

Why not show some real leadership instead of blindly following misinformation?

This narrative is bad for Republicans and now GOP leaders must now grapple with what to do with extremists in the party. Extremists such as Marjorie Taylor Greene who compromises the credibility of thoughtful, well-meaning Republicans everywhere.

For example, this past week, Republican state Sen. Bill Cowsert said the push to overhaul Georgia election laws amounts to little more than sour grapes.

Here is what Cowsert said, “I have never received the number of constituent contacts — phone calls, emails, letters — on any subject matter like I have after the election this fall. There’s really a crisis in confidence in the public on the validity and integrity of the election returns. Now a lot of it might just be sour grapes, people unhappy that they lost.”

Fellow Republican, state Rep. Allan Powell conceded during a meeting of the Special Committee on Election Integrity that widespread voter fraud just “wasn’t found.” He added, “It’s just in a lot of people’s minds that there was.”

These Republicans are simply telling the truth.

The GOP must follow the truth if it is going to hold its ground in Georgia.

There is no need for the plethora of proposed bills to revamp the state’s election apparatus.

The handful of voting irregularities across the state last year was not disproportionate to what we might see in any election.

There are already election laws in place to investigate and even prosecute those few irregularities in the cases where laws were broken.

GOP lawmakers have introduced dozens of bills that target mail-in voting overall, even stricter voter ID requirements and the practice of no-excuse mail-in voting.

Georgia’s Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger repeatedly said his office found no indication of widespread voter fraud and decried the massive disinformation campaign that suggested otherwise.

Quite simply, both Republicans and Democrats want safe, secure, accurate elections with only people who are legally registered to vote casting a ballot. And that is exactly what we have now with only a few exceptions that have been properly investigated.

Election security should be a priority and, yes, tweaks to processes are warranted when problems are found. But that is a far cry from revamping or overhauling the system in a way that would discourage or suppress the vote.

There is simply no reason for lawmakers to spend all this time and energy overhauling our elections. The whole thing seems to be a matter of legislation looking for a problem to fix.

We strongly agree with Republican Bill Cowsert when he said, “a lot of it might just be sour grapes, people unhappy that they lost.”