An article in the New York Times yesterday, upset me and got me all fired up. It was an article discussing the Surge Seen in Number of Homeless Veterans. These are veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan, wars that are not even over yet.
According to the article:
More than 400 veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars have turned up homeless, and the Veterans Affairs Department and aid groups say they are bracing for a new surge in homeless veterans in the years ahead.
I’m speechless (well not exactly or wouldn’t be writing) on how we can mistreat the very men and women who protect us. Did we not learn anything after Vietnam?
If you don’t know a vet, how this travesty occurs might not seem clear. Let me share.
Coming back from any long-term deployment, but especially one that involves combat, is hard on a soldier and his family. They have a hard time reintegrating themselves back into the life they knew before they left, a life that has gone on without them. This fact alone leads to domestic issues that might cause soldiers to leave their home.
Furthermore, many single veterans give up their home when deployed long-term and put their stuff in storage. Why pay for a place no stays in and you have no way of securing? Consequently when these vets return they really have no place to go.
Add issues like Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, alcoholism, financial issues, etc. and you can see where it goes bad quickly.
We have too long underestimated the effects of these long-term deployments on the men and women that serve and protect us.
The idea that the Veteran Affairs officers are trolling homeless shelters and soup kitchens to find vets instead of working with them and counseling them as soon as they return to help integrate them back into society is a good example of how we’ve missed the boat.
Being a Navy brat, we’ve often had sailors stay with us until they got back on their feet. But it shouldn’t come down to individuals to offer their homes to the men and women serving this country. We as a country should be stepping up to this plate.
How much housing is available on bases and posts for single sailors/soldiers? Can we offer short-term housing to returning vets who are leaving the service, but need time to reintegrate into the society? Why isn’t counseling mandatory for all returning vets who have seen combat?
We can ask these men and women to give up their lives to serve us. Can’t we offer them some security in return? How can the “home of the brave” leave its brave homeless?