Thursday, November 08, 2007

"Happy" Veterans' Day?

Veterans' Day is this Sunday. Try to remember the following when you go out to hit those sales:

WASHINGTON (AP) Nov. 7, 2007:
Veterans make up one in four homeless people in the United States, though they are only 11 percent of the general adult population, according to a report to be released Thursday.

And homelessness is not just a problem among middle-age and elderly veterans. Younger veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan are trickling into shelters and soup kitchens seeking services, treatment or help with finding a job.

The Veterans Affairs Department has identified 1,500 homeless veterans from the current wars and says 400 of them have participated in its programs specifically targeting homelessness.

The National Alliance to End Homelessness, a public education nonprofit, based the findings of its report on numbers from Veterans Affairs and the Census Bureau. 2005 data estimated that 194,254 homeless people out of 744,313 on any given night were veterans.

In comparison, the VA says that 20 years ago, the estimated number of veterans who were homeless on any given night was 250,000.

Some advocates say the early presence of veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan at shelters does not bode well for the future. It took roughly a decade for the lives of Vietnam veterans to unravel to the point that they started showing up among the homeless. Advocates worry that intense and repeated deployments leave newer veterans particularly vulnerable.

"We're going to be having a tsunami of them eventually because the mental health toll from this war is enormous," said Daniel Tooth, director of veterans affairs for Lancaster County, Pa.
The rest is here, at The Huffington Post.

My late father served in the United States Navy during the Korean War. His dad sailed around the world with The Great White Fleet. My late father-in-law fought the Nazis as an artillery man during the last year of World War Two. My uncle served four years on a tin can in the Pacific: he signed up the day after Pearl Harbor. This past summer, I spent a lot of time interviewing World War Two vets for the young adult novel I'm writing about conscientious objectors who served as combat medics in Europe (and as smoke jumpers here at home) during World War II. While I call myself a pacifist, and while I detest and abhor war - ALL war - I respect and appreciate the sacrifices and service of our veterans, even when they serve in conflicts with which I disagree. Which would pretty much be all conflicts. No matter where you stand on the subject of war, THIS story is an utter and complete outrage. I would challenge everyone who reads it to link to the article and to send that link to their elected members of Congress this weekend, just in time for the "holiday" we set aside each year to honor our vets. Add a simple line: "What are YOU going to do about this?"

Make them give you an answer. Something more than "I support our troops."

We need to do better. And we need to end the senseless conflicts which lead to such long-lasting pain and suffering.

Pray for peace on Sunday (or Friday or Saturday). And work for it, too.

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