Today is Veterans Day, the holiday established in 1954 to honor all our veterans. It replaced Armistice Day, which had been
I am the niece of a World War 1 veteran and a Vietnam War veteran as well as the cousin of a veteran of the second Gulf War. I’m also honored to have several friends who served in Vietnam and the Gulf. I grew up across the street from a VA Hospital and saw first hand the scars of war, both physical and mental. As a little girl I often saw wheelchair bound vets, their bodies broken and sometimes their minds too. Some were missing limbs, others had been badly burned. Many were polite and even friendly, and some were locked in their own tormented worlds. I remember vividly one vet, who I used to see in the grocery store all the time. He’d lost both legs, had long curly hair, a bushy beard, and always wore his green Army jacket. I imagine he must have gone through a living hell, but he was always kind and friendly. I used to help him get things from the high shelves he couldn’t reach from his wheelchair.
It pains me to know that Vietnam vets were treated so badly. Unlike their WWI and II counterparts, when they came home they were treated like villains instead of heroes. They were spat on, abused, shunned, and in many cases, forgotten. I know someone who was spit upon when he came home and it just breaks my heart. Vietnam vets did and continue to get a raw deal. 1 out of every 3 homeless people are veterans, and did you know that 47% of all homeless vets are Vietnam vets and that the total number of homeless Vietnam vets exceeds the number of veterans who were killed in the war? Shameful. In addition, 76% of all homeless vets suffer from PTSD and/or other mental illnesses. Even the vets who were lucky to come home safe and sound and didn’t end up on the streets often struggle with mental health issues. These men were drafted, many of them while they were still teenagers, and sent off to war. They really didn’t have much choice in the matter, but the country DID. They could choose to support them or blame them for the sins of their government, and sadly they chose wrong.