The body that once belonged to my father is buried beneath this gravestone. Born in 1920, he died in 1999, a few months shy of his 79th birthday. A World War II veteran, my dad never said much about his stint in the military. All I know for sure is that he was stationed in Calcutta, India, and was involved with supply planes that flew over “The Hump” (the Himalayan Mountains).
Like many of his generation, my dad came home from his military experience and re-assimilated into society. Most vets continued their schooling, got married, started families, or entered the work force. The vast majority returned to normal lives.
The current mess within the Veterans Administration reminds us that things are different for veterans these days. When it comes to homelessness and jobs, the Center for American Progress reported that two years ago, one in seven homeless adults were veterans; more than 4 in 10 homeless veterans were found unsheltered; over 30 percent of veterans between the ages of 18-24 were unemployed.
In our country the unwritten and unspoken truth gets revealed in all its ugliness: “Fight our dirty wars for us, and when you return you’ll contend with some level of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and get funneled into our country’s impoverished and working poor who are forced to take jobs with long hours, low pay, and little opportunity for advancement. In all likelihood, you won’t have access to the very prosperities your military service sought to defend. And if you’re black or Hispanic, it will be worse.”
I see lots of “vets” holding up cardboard signs at busy intersections. I never know when it’s a scam, a con game, or the real thing. Whatever. I’m lucky I’ve never had to do it. I’m going to try to be more generous with my donations and the causes we support. I think my dad would approve.