January 23, 2008- Every war produces casualties that American society refuses to recognize. I remember the tales of lobotomized WWII veterans and remember watching “strange” zombie-like men wandering the neighborhoods as I grew up. I remember returning from the Vietnam War and seeing the horrendous waste of people as the country refused to help its veterans to actually “return home.” Why was there no outrage? Why has there never been outrage? Yet, we tolerate individuals who deny that the badly damaged people who served the needs of the nation are filling our homeless shelters and our prisoners.
I returned home from the Vietnam War and was extremely lucky. A local college provided a very warm welcome to veterans. As I remember it, no matter what our high school academics looked like, we were provisionally admitted into a program with limited class load and careful but almost unnoticed counseling. We thrived. Our little group of 10 or 12 veterans produced local community leaders like a bank president, a Chamber of Commerce president and a carpenter/artist to mention just a few. To the best of my knowledge, none of us became homeless or spent years in prison. What that college provided was a community and a reality check for all of us in a safe environment. Mixing veterans and the outside world, barely noticed we transitioned. We need similar programs now.
While attending college, I worked as a city policeman and saw the human toll building up as returning veterans tried desperately to cope. My fellow officers, many veterans of WWII and Korea, tried to stem the flow to “give a break” where they could but in so many cases it was hopeless — a mere finger in the dike of agony. Well, I will no longer stand for it. I urge you not to either.
Demand programs like the one I attended. Demand new and innovative programs for another generation at risk. What worked for me and my cohorts won’t necessarily work for today’s soldier. Do not allow ANY politician to claim a program is too expensive – we started this war; we better pay for it.
The hurting soldiers and veterans in our midst are a cost of war. They deserve better than my generation and so many past veteran generations often received: homelessness and prison. It is WAY past time to brake the chain of human waste and abuse. I don’t want any right or left wing propagandist saying hurting veterans don’t exist or calling them phony soldiers. Everyone of us, not just veterans but all proud American citizens of every political stripe, should demand accountability and change. None, not one, of our troops should be abandoned anywhere because they were too expensive.