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Sunday, November 12

Reflecting on Veterans by an Old Peace Chick

About one quarter of all homeless people in the US are veterans. The VA estimates that nearly 200,000-300,000 veterans are homeless on any given night. What's alarming is that veterans of the Iraq War are already arriving in homeless shelters, victims of PTSD, substance abuse, divorce, unemployment. About 28,000 veterans from Iraq sought health care from the VA and about 1 in 5 have mental problems. It breaks my heart. Says one homeless vet:
"We had a few situations where, I guess, people were trying to get out of the country. They would come right at us and they would not stop," Brown said. "We had to open fire on them. It was really tough. A lot of soldiers, like me, had trouble with that."

"That was the hardest part," Brown said. "Not only were there men, but there were women and children -- really little children. There would be babies with arms blown off. It was something hard to live with."
Being a female, a nurturer, I can't even begin to describe how it grieves me that our sons and daughters who enlist to protect and defend our country are sent off to invade and occupy a soveriegn nation, taught to torture and ordered to kill families, probably many just like their own families at home. Not only that, they were rushed to war without adequate armor and protection under phony pretenses. When they arrive back in the states, they exist not even knowing if they will be shipped back to the war zone, stressing their families and of course themselves. They are hidden from society. They are not given a voice in the press. I'm sorry, but when I see the faces of the fallen soldiers on television each week, I choke up and I cry. Many of them are just kids. Have you seen their baby faces? Then there are men up to 50 years old, probably dads, reservists, husbands, doing their civic duty, leaving their families, who are probably strugggling. How many tours of duty have they served I wonder. The least our leaders can do is be honest with us.

With all the wasteful spending by the Pentagon and the missions billions of dollars, we could pay each and every veteran and their families a pension or put them to work in a good paying job, give them every health and human service that they need and see to it that their children are well cared for and educated, if by chance their parents are unable to provide for them due to war experiences. What better way to thank our service people who actually fought in combat, than to give them every opportunity to adjust to everyday life in a decent middle class manner when they come home? That's not liberal. That's just humane (and you know that I am a total hippy peacenik). If we are going to continue to be an imperialist country, we ought to get the hell on the stick and provide for our warriors or just forget the whole thing.

Furthermore, outspoken veterans, legislators who are veterans and even generals who speak out about the war, question the government's policies and the dubious reasons to go to war are completely vilified in the media. How utterly depressing that must be for those who served. It's almost like we're telling them that it's expected that if you have served, you better shut up and deal it with it or we won't support you (whatever the hell "support" means). Our legislators skimp on veteran's services in favor of lining the pockets of defense contractors. Remember the defense contractor on Long Island who threw a $1o million dollar bat mitzvah for his totally underdeprived daughter? He was manufacturing shitty flack jackets to boot!

Was John Kerry really wrong in suggesting to college students that they ought to stay in school or risk going to bush's quagmire? How many young men and women serving in Iraq wish that they were in college or went to college before they enlisted rather than trying to not get killed in the hell hole. Maybe it was insensitive of him to bring it up, but how insensitive of the media to make such a big deal about it. Wouldn't you think that the fucking president and the media would have let the story go rather than to hurt the feelings of the troops? Bush politicized Kerry's remarks and it was despicable. There was a lot of truth to Kerry's joke even in its botched form but I wish I didn't have to hear about it. Those of us who sacrifice to put our children through college today, know full well what the options for our children are. Flipping burgers is not a terrible job, but if you work an honest 40 hour work week in this country, it doesn't mean that you will make a living wage. It's not that my son or I wouldn't put on uniforms and fight for our country if it became necessary to do so. Actually I think us old people ought to fight- not the young people.

What a difference a generation makes.
When our fathers (and some of our mothers including my late mother in law who was an Army nurse in London) served in WWII or Korea, when they arrived home, there were jobs and housing projects galore. Americans were all part of the war effort. They weren't ordered to go shopping. They all conserved and were happy to do it. So after the war, America was on the fast track while they were rebuilding in war ravaged Europe and Japan. Combat veterans were highly regarded. They grew big families and became the mighty middle class. I grew up in flourishing post war surburbia. They hardly spoke about the war to us boomers although many of them saw their own sons go off to Vietnam, some hardly voicing their concerns, not knowing what fate awaited those who returned alive. It was nothing like the America that the WWII vets came home to.

Only in the past 20 years have I heard so many stories about WWII from our parents, some completely obsessed with it, some who dragged their uniforms out of the closet and once again don their medals and pins and have pictures of themselves in their uniforms suddenly hanging on the walls. My uncle turned into a flyboy again. He carries his pilot's license from WWI. He wears his medals on his blazer at weddings and funerals. When my dad developed alzheimers, it was most interesting how he only remembered WWII with clarity. When my father in law underwent open heart surgery some years ago and came home kind of befuddled for a time from the anethesia, all he could talk about was storming the beaches at Normandy. It probably has to do with the gradual loss of short term memory, or maybe they are just reflecting on what the country has become since the glory days after WWII.

See The National Coalition For Homeless Veterans to find out what you can do for veterans in your community. The readers here know what a farce it is to slap a magnetic ribbon your SUV.

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