Kellie SpannAP Lit/CompMs. Tillery18 November 2011 Neglected Veterans American soldiers experience tragedy upon tragedy and are haunted by the dauntingsights they see during war. They leave behind lives of luxury in which American civilians areliving while the young, the old, and the experienced young soldiers are fighting to privilege thatlifestyle to them. They live and die by America’s freedom and see to it that that independence isnot lost, for they are the only reason America still holds on to its liberty. They fight for their livesand the lives of their compatriots, too, yet what they get in return is a long life of fear andloneliness. Their veteran lives are composed of haunting memories and paranoid reactions inresponse to their slowed-down veteran lives. All war veterans suffer one way or another whenthey arrive back to their home country for peace and settlement; however, they suffer most fromthe negligence and abandonment from their countrymen and even their own family members andfriends. Naturally, when people have problems they need with discuss to someone, they tell theirclosest friends or family members for support. However, on one hand, when veterans go back tolive at their native home, they find that none of their loved ones can understand their pain andtrauma that they are grieving from. They cannot explain their indescribable experiences, nor canthey bear to relive those occurrences. On the other hand, many Americans ignore veteransbecause they would rather not speak of their nation’s disasters, and the veterans are an “…uncomfortable reminder of a subject no one wanted to speak about” (“America Since the War
(1976–Present)”). Because of this, it is easy for American civilians to degrade veterans. Asmentioned in America Since the War (1976-Present), “…movies and television shows typicallyportrayed [veterans] as pitiful, drug-addicted losers or homicidal maniacs.” As a result of thislack of understanding, ignorance, and dehumanization in their most desperate time of need,veterans develop depression, and they feel absolutely alone. In response to their loneliness, a substantially large amount of veterans try to escape theirpain by drinking it away or getting high on drugs so that they cannot physically or emotionallyfeel it. Upon returning home, many American veterans become alcoholics. Studies show that“heavy drinking in the military has been an accepted custom and tradition” (Bray). Usually, inthe follow up months of a war screenings result in close to 27% of veterans reported for alcoholabuse. Along side with heavy drinking, drug abuse is a huge problem among American warveterans. According to Military, Drug and Alcohol Abuse in the United States, 20% of America’sex-soldiers of the Vietnam War have used narcotics, and an additional 20% have been reportedfor addiction. The same percentage pertains to most of America’s wars. Resulting from thealcohol and drug abuse among American veterans, mental illness drives a sufficiently ampleamount of them crazy. In a news video on CNN, Dr. Sanjay Gupta states, “As many as one inthree soldiers returning from Iraq or Afghanistan suffers from traumatic brain injury, severedepression, substance abuse, or P.T.S.D.” (A veterans descent). Test results proclaim, “inanother study of returning soldiers, clinicians identified 20 percent of active and 42 percent ofreserve component soldiers as requiring mental health treatment. Drug or alcohol use frequentlyaccompanies mental health problems and was involved in 30 percent of the Armys suicidedeaths from 2003 to 2009 and in more than 45 percent of non-fatal suicide attempts from 2005 to2009” (National Institute on Drug Abuse). Because of this adoption of heavy alcohol and drug
abuse, and the mental health issues that result from that abuse, families disown their bravetroopers. Additionally, instead of welcoming their beloved soldiers, families disown them becausethey are afraid of the violence that is brought home with the soldiers. Naturally, it is hardtransitioning from eating a hot pizza to drinking ice cold water; most of the time, this transitionresults in extreme pain among a person’s teeth. Likewise, veterans struggle with theirexpectation to transition from a violent, bloody, every-man-for-himself lifestyle of wars topeaceful, slow, and routine lives of average American civilians. The Blue of CaliforniaFoundation has researched and has reported, “81% of [all American ex-combatants performsome sort of violence towards their families]” (Preventing Violence in the Homes). Someveterans subconsciously act violently towards their loved ones; sometimes, they have PTSDepisodes where they are in a trance-like state and practically dream they are harming their ex-combat enemies when in reality, they are wounding their own spouse, child, sibling, andsometimes even their own parents. Others, however, do not know how to leave the violence theyhave accumulated through the military on the battlefields, and so they continue to use it on theirfamilies when they arrive home. Subsequently, depression occurs because they feel like they aremonsters because they have injured or killed men and their family members. Consequently,families tend to disown their relatives who come back from wars due to the danger their liveswould be in. Apart from the emotional tolls that causes families to disregard their own countrymanthat patriotically risk their lives for the protection of their country, the American society as awhole has developed habits of overlooking those veterans as well. After being rejected by theirdearest comrades, they also struggle to find jobs. During an interview with a female Iraq War
veteran, a CNN reporter explains, “the unemployment rate for recent veterans, [11.7%], is higherthan the national average, [9.1%]. With a jobless rate of 14.7% September, , femaleveterans have faired worse than their male counterparts” (Henry, Jones, and Helman). As alsojustified in this interview, some veterans can not find jobs because they do not know how to fillout a resume due to the fact they have never had to fill one out before, and people so not care tohelp them. Others, however, struggle to find a job because managers do not wish to hire veteransbecause of their history of excessive alcohol and drug use, mental illnesses, and violence andabuse. Statistical studies assert, “The jobless rate for veterans of all eras combined [is] 8.7percent” ("Employment Situation of Veterans"). On top of being friendless and loveless by theirdearest loved ones because of their unutterable experiences, their drug and alcohol intake, theirinsanity, and their violence they carry home alongside them, the American society altogetherpushes them away and leaves them jobless. As a result from being jobless, veterans are left broke, and homelessness in Americaincreases greatly during and after wars. A statistics article affirms, “about one-third of the adulthomeless population are veterans…[the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs] estimates that131,000 veterans are homeless on any given night” ("Homelessness Overview"). Withoutaffordable housing, livable income and access to healthcare, veterans desperately search daily tofind shelter. Stemming from the rise in homelessness among veterans, United States citizensthought of veterans as even more of a burden to America. Although negligence of American veterans is very common, attitudes towards theVietnam War veterans began to change in the early 1980s. Veteran support became a populartopic among some of the nation’s political leaders, such as Ronald Reagan, who announced thatthe effort in Vietnam was a noble cause and that the veterans deserve America’s gratitude,
respect, and continuing concern. A sense of appreciation for the servicemen began to grow in theUnited States, and American communities initiated taking steps to make up for their previoustreatment and behavior towards veterans. As stated in the article America Since the War (1976-Present), “The single biggest factor in Americas changing perception of its Vietnam veteranswas the creation of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, [which contained the names of allAmericans killed in Vietnam.” The Vietnam Veterans Memorial created a wave of admirationamong American inhabitants for the country’s servicemen. Alongside the construction of thismemorial, the media started to portray veterans differently from how they formerly presentedthem. Indicated in a Vietnam War follow-up research article, “unlike earlier works, many of thebooks, films, and television shows of the 1980s portrayed veterans in a positive or even heroicway” ("America Since the War (1976–Present)"). As far as drug and alcohol abuse, since 1981,drug testing has been conducted on soldiers entering the military and veterans coming homefrom war, and alcohol rehabilitation therapy has been offered to all American war veterans whoneed it. Mental health facilities, such as the Atlanta VA Medical Center and the Blue Shield ofCalifornia foundatin, have also been opened up for veterans specifically, which also help withreducing violence in homecoming veterans. Housing systems, such as the National Veterans Parkin Las Angeles, have been built specifically for the shelter of veterans. Measures are still beingtaken to help end the unnecessary unemployment of veterans. A recent unemployment pressrelease pronounces, “[To help encourage hiring of veterans,] the Returning Heroes Tax Creditprovides firms that hire unemployed veterans with a maximum credit of $5,600 per veteran. TheWounded Warriors Tax Credit offers firms that hire veterans with service-connected disabilitieswith a maximum credit of $9,600 per veteran. The three executive announcements that Obamawill make include a new online service to help veterans find work; creating a veterans job bank;
and a veterans "gold card" granting them special services and care at career centers” ("Obama toAnnounce"). Another recent press release proclaims, “The first initiative [Obama has set forth]will encourage community health centers to hire 8,000 veterans over the next three years. Thesecond will improve training opportunities for military medics to become physician assistants”("Obama Plans to Lift"). Finally, generous actions have been taken by American societies sincethe 1980s to ensure the health and support of their country’s military participants. All things considered, negligence of returning soldiers has been an escalating issue inAmerica for decades up until the 1980s. Inattention to troupers has substantially decreased sincemeasures have been taken.