Sunday, January 20, 2008

We Should All Be Ashamed

From a powerful AP piece:

Peter Mohan never did find a steady job after he left Iraq. He lost his wife — a judge granted their divorce this fall — and he lost his friends and he lost his home, and now he is here, in a shelter.

He is 28 years old. "People come back from war different," he offers by way of a summary.

This is not a new story in America: A young veteran back from war whose struggle to rejoin society has failed, at least for the moment, fighting demons and left homeless.

But it is happening to a new generation. As the war in Afghanistan plods on in its seventh year, and the war in Iraq in its fifth, a new cadre of homeless veterans is taking shape.

And with it come the questions: How is it that a nation that became so familiar with the archetypal homeless, combat-addled Vietnam veteran is now watching as more homeless veterans turn up from new wars?

What lessons have we not learned? Who is failing these people? Or is homelessness an unavoidable byproduct of war, of young men and women who devote themselves to serving their country and then see things no man or woman should?

If there is any cause for optimism, it is that we, as a society, still have time to provide aid (such as treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder) to the new wave of veterans before a large number of them fall into homelessness.  Our record from past wars does not provide encouragement, but maybe this time, with our better understanding of the causes of veteran homelessness, will be different.

Of course, that hope assumes that lack of understanding of causes, rather than plain apathy, was the key obstacle to helping veterans in the past.

No comments: