Once again I find myself BLOWN AWAY by the statistics related to homeless Veterans in our country!!
More than 107,000 Veterans are homeless on a given night! An average of 18 Veterans die each day from suicide!
To think that 18 men and women, who fought so hard to protect our civil liberties, felt that the only solution to their turmoil and trauma was to commit suicide makes my heart hurt and my throat squeeze with unreleased tears.
Our Veterans today are experiencing more and more challenges as they return “home” from Iraq and Afghanistan. The down turn in our economy has certainly made securing employment more challenging, not to mention the fact that many of the “jobs” our Veterans have performed overseas do not translate to the civilian employment sector. Unfortunately, the ability of employers to be more selective about who they hire has also caused challenges in securing employment and certainly involves an inability to grasp the complex physical and mental challenges that our men and women in uniform bring with them after years at war.
Many of our Nations larger businesses profess a strong willingness to employ Veterans as they return home, but stop short of fulfilling that oath when the Veteran has physical and/or mental health challenges such as PTSD, Anxiety Disorder, and TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury). Many times, these disorders take years to manifest and are often so elusive in their diagnosis and support that individuals suffering from them eventually give up on trying to “earn or prove” their right to ask for help and/or compensation.
Is it any wonder that many of our Veterans turn to drugs and alcohol to alleviate the pain of a nation turning its’ back on them?? Unfortunately, use of these substances and can often lead to criminal records which further compound their ability to get help and find employment.
Northwest Arkansas is no different than any other area in the United States, we still see homeless Veterans. 7hills Homeless Center in Fayetteville, AR provided services to over 450 DIFFERENT Veterans at their Day Center last year. The local VA Hospital estimates there are over 600 homeless Veterans living within the immediate service area of the Fayetteville Medical Center on a given night.
Every day I am faced with what our men and women have sacrificed for me and my children, both in my chosen occupation and when I go home each day and watch my husband battle with the debilitating effects of TBI. His struggle is hard enough with a supportive family, a comfortable home, and his determination to rise above his disability. Now imagine if he were part of the 1 in 5 homeless adults who are also Veterans but live in tents, under park benches, or along the train tracks.
These men and women have sacrificed everything so that we didn’t have to live in fear and isolation; yet, they often fight their demons alone. The “best and brightest” of our nations’ men and women now live in constant turmoil both physically and mentally because of the circumstances surrounding their housing status and their inability to find support and employment. They now have to face the possibility that someone will walk by and either ask them to “move on because there is no loitering allowed” or pass judgment on them without knowing the facts or circumstances.
As a wife of a Veteran, I am both outraged and deeply hurt by our society’s inability to grasp the full story surrounding our men and women in uniform and their return “home” only to face these types of struggles.
As a professional, I am convicted to pick up the baton and run the race until a day comes when there is not 1 single homeless Veteran in our Nation. A bold statement I’m sure, but Billy Ray Cyrus’ song, “Some Gave All” resonates in my heart and the faces of the Veterans who are a part of my life resonates in my soul.
I will not stop until I’ve honored each every one of them and their sacrifice for me and my family!!