It is crushing to read stories like this and to see what an ungrateful nation we really are. Worse, how we disregard our veterans is not recent occurence but has been a blemish on our history since the revolutionary war. Today, perhaps because of the evolution of wars and the advent of improvised explosive devices and repeated deployments, veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan are becoming homeless at a much faster rate than Vietnam era vets.
For as long as the United States has sent its young men â€” and later its young women â€” off to war, it has watched as a segment of them come home and lose the battle with their own memories, their own scars, and wind up without homes.
The Civil War produced thousands of wandering veterans. Frequently addicted to morphine, they were known as “tramps,” searching for jobs and, in many cases, literally still tending their wounds.
More than a decade after the end of World War I, the “Bonus Army” descended on Washington â€” demanding immediate payment on benefits that had been promised to them, but payable years later â€” and were routed by the U.S. military.
And, most publicly and perhaps most painfully, there was Vietnam: Tens of thousands of war-weary veterans, infamously rejected or forgotten by many of their own fellow citizens.
Now it is happening again, in small but growing numbers.
The pattern of self-destructiveness that permeates combat veterans is much more understood now. Medically, it is recognized that high levels of stress hormones shrink the hippocampus and impair the veterans memory and ability to focus, both crucial to maintaining a job. Today, in addition to PTSD many veterans suffer from traumatic brain injury (TBI) from IEDs which lead to many of the same behavioral and cognitive difficulties that complicate holding a job. Yet, it is happening again, just like other wars we are casting our veterans to the wind.
People who have studied postwar trauma say there is always a lengthy gap between coming home â€” the time of parades and backslaps and “The Boys Are Back in Town” on the local FM station â€” and the moments of utter darkness that leave some of them homeless.
In that time, usually a period of years, some veterans focus on the horrors they saw on the battlefield, or the friends they lost, or why on earth they themselves deserved to come home at all. They self-medicate, develop addictions, spiral down.
How â€” or perhaps the better question is why â€” is this happening again?
“I really wish I could answer that question,” says Anthony Belcher, an outreach supervisor at New Directions, which conducts monthly sweeps of Skid Row in Los Angeles, identifying homeless veterans and trying to help them get over addictions.
“It’s the same question I’ve been asking myself and everyone around me. I’m like, wait, wait, hold it, we did this before. I don’t know how our society can allow this to happen again.”
America should be ashamed of the way they treat their veterans and we should all be walking the river banks and offering to help them where we can. Read the whole article here