Wednesday, July 04, 2012

The Shame of America, Homeless Veterans

Once again, we celebrate our Independence from Britain over 200 years ago. We will enjoy backyard barbecues, community picnics, fireworks displays or just a pleasant time enjoying friends and family, many people receiving the day off from work. We’ll hear speeches and thanks given out for why we are a free country, those few throughout our history who have stood in the fire to fight for and protect our freedoms.

Tomorrow, everything will return to normal, though. Forgotten by all too many will be the fleeting words of praise given to Veterans of all past wars as people return to business as usual and Veterans will be shoved off into the back corners of people’s minds until the next time a holiday rolls around and some politician feels they need to score a few points.

All too many really don’t care very much about the sacrifices of our Veterans and this can be readily seen in politicians and our media, who sees Veterans as little more than props to score points against an opponent or to sell newspapers or build ratings by flashy reports.

We claim deep respect and admiration for our Veterans and Military and many individuals actually do hold deep respect for them. But, all too many do not. To many we are little more than tools to promote their agenda. To others, we are damaged and something to be fearful of, afraid we may “go off” at any time.

I covered part of this years ago in the posts Veterans, Warriors and Heroes, not Victims and America’s Veterans, A Better Breed.

In spite of the occasional lip service given, too many Veterans still struggle seeking employment when they return to civilian life. Naturally, if they cannot find employment, they become homeless, living on the street.

It is refreshing the read a press release Labor Department Announces Grants to Train Homeless Vets from the Department of Defense saying, “The Labor Department today awarded 90 grants totaling more than $20 million to fund job training and support services that officials said will help more than 11,000 veterans succeed in civilian careers.”

Well meaning, I am sure, but it ignores the root causes of high unemployment and homelessness seen in today’s Veterans. Yes, we remain in deep economic recession and everybody is struggling, but unemployment amongst our Veterans remains well above that of civilian counterparts, sitting at 12.7% currently according to Rex Huppke of the Chicago Tribune and syndicated in the Olympian.

Huppke is right where he says “Veterans deserve [a] fair shake in [the] job market,” and in mentioning why Veterans are not receiving a fair shake, “a lack of preparedness for the transition to civilian life to an unwarranted concern by employers that all veterans carry psychological baggage that could lead to on-the-job problems.”

Even in his article he commits the very act that compels employers to shy away from Veterans when he quotes Texas-based psychiatrist Harry Croft saying, “it’s incumbent on employers to learn about PTSD and its symptoms. That will help them better understand what a veteran might be experiencing in day-to-day life,” and “companies should have someone available for veterans to speak with in confidence, preferably a person familiar with PTSD.”

Scant mention is made of Croft’s other words that PTSD “can range from mild to debilitating” or that only 20% of returning Iraq or Afghanistan Vets will suffer any PTSD symptoms at all.

Croft does mention speaking with HR people who say, “We want to hire these veterans, but we can’t ask if they have PTSD,” and “We’re worried that violence could erupt in the workplace or whether other employees could catch PTSD.”

Huppke stops well short of mentioning his own mediums culpability in why employers hold “an unwarranted concern,” as expressed from Croft.

Stop and think back over the years of this current war. Compare how many times you read or viewed reports of the heroic actions of our Troops compared to claims of atrocities or murderous acts of a few who may have served?

Our media has devoted many hours of broadcast time and pages of print informing of every time a veteran does wrong. But how often do you read of a Veteran’s actions saving someone? Or serving in his community in some charitable fashion?

Stories of the good acts of Veterans, that in reality far outweigh the few who do commit criminal acts, don’t sell papers nor do they attract viewers. After all, good stories and reports on Veterans do not fit in with the axiom, “if it bleeds it leads.”

It is totally hypocritical of the media to report on employers being unwilling to hire Veterans when it is they who perpetuate the myth of the Deranged Veteran with their strong coverage of the few who do wrong, always making sure to mention they are a Veteran, and give little or no counter coverage to the huge amount of good Veterans do for their individual community.

It is they who instill the thought of Veterans of going berserk in the workplace as they publish report after report of PTSD Veterans while not acknowledging how small the numbers actually are, misleading employers to believe it is all of us.

They do not report to employers of the highly skilled abilities learned in the Military or how those skills could easily be worked into their place of business. They do not report how the discipline and sense of duty learned by Veterans would mean tasks done on time, complex problems worked out with the utmost of ability. They simply ignore the importance of teamwork taught Veterans to accomplish a mission would easily translate to greater cooperation in the work place.

Mentioned above was the fear that PTSD could be caught by others at work as it if were a common cold. PTSD is not communicable.

But, a sense of working together, leading others and cooperation that Veterans had to use in the Military is caught by others.

Devoting funds to help Veterans return to civilian life is great. But money doesn’t solve everything. NO amount of money can overcome the misperception of Veterans the media teaches people.

The truth about who and what we Veterans are could accomplish much more.

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