The 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month saw the end to the largest scale war the world had seen up to that point. Armistice Day was declared and over the next year millions of men and women returned to parades and cheering crowds in every city.
When the parades ended, people went back to their lives. Well, many did. But a new population started to grow in the shadows… veterans who never really came home. Whether it was the shock of seeing the death and destruction or physical changes resulting from combat, a percentage never really adjusted and became part of a shadow world polite people never want to talk about.
I have struggled with the “holiday” called Veterans Day for most of my adult life. Not with the concept of honoring Veterans. None of the Veterans I know consider themselves heroes. They are just ordinary men and women who did their duty the best they could. Veterans Day should be every day not just one day that passes quickly into the memory books as another parade that ends without truly honoring those who have done so much for their country.
How do we honor our Veterans? 1 in 4 homeless people are Vets. Nearly half are Viet Nam era. We walk by them and drive on overpasses that serve as their homes. Nearly 90 % have honorable discharges. 85% completed high school and 67% served three or more years. On any given night, there are between 130,000 and 200,000 that sleep in the doorways and underpasses of our cities and towns. The VA and homeless coalitions can only provide 8,000 beds and scarcely any of these government programs provide long term solutions.
They served us and came back with wounds both physical and mental. Broken lives, broken families and broken promises. Western Pennsylvania has the fifth largest population of Veterans and ranks very high in our homeless and underemployed Veteran population. The lost jobs and lack of a military installation keep those numbers high. Returning Veterans from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars are poised to overwhelm the scarce resources available. Many have multiple trauma situations that are the results of the new kind of warfare. Battlefield injuries that once were assurances of death can be overcome but the recovery is something no one planned for.
Do you really want to say thank you to the Veterans? Do two things… remember that every day a Veteran who gave his or her all to defend your freedom needs a helping hand to come home. Make every day Veteran’s Day. Then find a group like the Veterans Leadership Program of Western Pennsylvania http://www.vlpa.org/
and find out what you can do to help.
God Bless you and God Bless America. To my fellow Veterans, welcome home. Now lets get to work bringing our brothers and sisters home too.
Did you know?
23% of homeless population are veterans
33% of male homeless population are veterans
47% Vietnam Era
67% served three or more years
33% stationed in war zone
85% completed high school/GED, compared to 56% of non-veterans
89% received Honorable Discharge
76% experience alcohol, drug, or mental health problems
46% age 45 or older compared to 20% non-veterans
Women veterans and those with disabilities including post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury are more likely to become homeless, and a higher percentage of veterans returning from the current conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq have these characteristics.