SUPPORT OUR TROOPS
I read an article in the Wednesday edition of the Worcester Telegram & Gazette that truly saddened me. It was a report by Associated Press writer Verena Dobnik and it talked about veterans who come back from armed conflict injured, emotionally scarred, financially strapped and unable to cope with everyday life back in the United States. Some of these veterans, an estimated 100,000 who served in Iraq, the Gulf War and Vietnam, are currently homeless. HOMELESS.
I am ashamed of myself and of this country. How is that we can ask young men and women to protect this country, to risk their lives everyday in foreign lands, to unquestioningly follow the orders of the U.S. government regardless of their personal beliefs and convictions and then allow those who sacrifice so much to come home and sleep on the street? It's deplorable!
I know there are "government programs" out there to assist veterans upon their return - but it's obviously not enough. If even one soldier slips through the cracks it's one too many. Afterall, the military was able to insure that physicals were done, uniforms and weapons issued, transportation arranged and deployment orders followed so that these men and women could fight in their war. Why shouldn't we expect the same diligence when it comes to taking care of our soldiers upon their return?
"In recent years, we've tried to reach out sooner to new veterans who are having problems with post-traumatic stress, depression or substance abuse, after seeing combat," says Peter Dougherty head of the federal government's Homeless Veterans Program. "These are the veterans who most often end up homeless."
"We've tried ..." Don't try. Trying implies not doing. Trying implies falling short and on this issue you cannot just "try." This is an area where I believe there is no room for shortcomings. If the U.S. military can enforce rules of deployment and service, then they can certainly insure that their soldiers are immediately provided with the assistance necessary to adjust and get back on their feet upon a safe return from combat.
There needs to be follow up on each and every soldier who shows signs of struggle, depression, post-traumatic stress syndrome, uncontrolled aggression, those who are overwhelmed by "civilian life," etc. It is unacceptable to allow those who have given so much to wind up with nothing; to allow those who put themselves in harm's way for their government to then be abandoned by that same institution.
Get angry, people. Don't let these soldiers suffer alone. Call your congressmen. Write to the President. This kind of tragedy cannot continue. And while you're at it, if you really want to support U.S. troops, put pressure on ALL elected officials to bring our men and women home from Iraq - NOW; and make sure that every veteran has something to come home to.