Saturday, November 29, 2014

Remembering Our Veterans Who Still Live


                 If you listen to American news, they proudly report that an upswing in available jobs and hiring,  is occurring. "The recession is over !" they hail.   Of course, none of the long term unemployed with whom we are acquainted, have been hired.   They are getting a few more interviews from time to time though. There is another phenomenon we are seeing in Virginia which I find particularly disturbing.  About twice a week or so, I make a run by car to one of two cities within a days drive from here. Consistent with having good situational awareness, there are lot of things I notice on these trips.  I also dress as "the grey woman" so I can come and go quickly, unnoticed, and a lot of people talk to me, and I respond. I learn a lot of things by simply speaking to people in my travels.  There is, a decided uptick in the number of veterans who are panhandling within my state.  There is a veteran from the  Vietnam conflict  panhandling on one corner who has listed his numerous medical diagnoses, on a giant cardboard placard, many of these diagnoses are likely correct, but misspelled. One of them is metastatic bone cancer.  He is standing on the corner, and from the gentle sway, he is obviously in pain. I had seen him and spoken to him several times to make sure that the staggering was pain and not drunkenness, before I gave him money. He is homeless and waiting for some type of disability. to come through  He stays at the mission whenever they are open or they have room.  I accept that there are people out there who won't take help sometimes, and who fall through the cracks in even the best systems. However, I am seeing an increase in the number of veterans in really serious situations who aren't getting what they need, and as an American citizen, I am both embarrassed and  ashamed.  I have done a little research on this, and the US Department of Veterans Affairs claims that there is help, housing, vocational rehabilitation, and medical care for these people.  If this is so, then why would so many veterans of so many different conflicts, and of both sexes, with differing issues not make use of the available help ?  Certainly, the social workers at the missions and homeless shelters have internet access and can help these souls who gave so much to us some direction to such programs, if such programs exist.  Why is this system not working ?   The VA says that homeless veterans are usually of African American or Hispanic ancestry and I don't know how they could even know this, because so many don't wish to be counted.  So many wish to be completely off grid.  The ones I mention in this particular post have all been caucasian.  I don't actually care what their ethnicity is identified as. Someone who served our country and was damaged or injured in the course of doing so, should have our support in both the short and the long term until they once again can take an important role in our mainstream.

                        There is a young woman who is a veteran of one of our recent wars. She has an amputation, and panhandles about one day a week  She has a dog who is protective of her.  She doesn't say much other than she "doesn't have anywhere to go".      I have met a number of fairly able bodied looking former soldiers in the community in the past six months.  Most are trying to adapt, and trying to fit in, even those without continuing medical issues from injuries. Goodwill has provided a job to a few of them.   It is quite difficult for many of them.  Some of them find a willing ear in the preparedness or survivalist communities.  Some of them over time are able to calm themselves enough to begin to piece together a life.  What bothers me is how many of these former soldiers claim that there are no resources allocated to help them reintegrate into their communities.  I know only one who found a job and is doing fairly well there.  Some of them don't trust the systems in which they once worked enough to confide in them to get the help they need. For a few, the Department of Defense has become a secondary untrustworthy enemy.  Many of them know what happened to Brandon Raub and they are acutely aware of NSA gathering of information, of Edward Snowden, and of the progressive erosion of the US Constitution under the Obama regime.

                       Yesterday, as I picked up fruit at a Wal-Mart in a distant town, I noticed a warmly dressed man in a beard in the line in the express line in back of me.  He had a bottled water and an inexpensive compilation video of an action series. "Sir, why don't you go ahead of me ?" I asked.   He looked surprised, but he silently went ahead and thanked me.  I commented that the compilation for five dollars is a very good buy.  At that point the female clerk in at the checkout said that he often finds the best priced videos.  As we headed out to the cold, he told me that he is a former marine, homeless and  living in a tent in nearby woods and watching compilation videos from a small portable battery operated player, whenever it's time to hunker down, like on the holidays.  I thanked him for his service to our country. For a moment he stood a bit taller and straighter, and didn't seem quite so cold.  How sad our country didn't find a better way to help those who have sacrificed so much of themselves to run operations which were said, at least at the time, to benefit America and her security.   As I shivered my way back to my car and thought about how when I finally got home,  I would have to spend a couple of hours once again today outdoors in snow and rain caring for horses and other livestock, caring for them, and placing them in the barn. I thought about the lives of so many who are simply living out in the cold all the time.  I said a prayer for the men and women like the marine.I met today. Please do the same.