Posts Tagged Veteran
June 21, 2012
In Need, in New York
By ALEX MILLER
A native of Chicago’s South Side, I was raised in poverty. Several times my mother and I had to take refuge in other people’s homes, and sometimes in shelters. I thought that by joining the Navy at 18, I would get the training and education I needed to improve my life and help my family.
Yet once I was honorably discharged in 2008, with good conduct medals and, from a service-related injury, seven screws in my foot and ankle, I found the recession had left few available jobs. I worked as a server at a pizza joint and as a salesman at a retail store. Finally I did maintenance at the veterans hospital in the Bronx. I should have taken a full-time job there when it was available, but felt sure I could find something that paid higher. I was proud, and I was wrong. For a long time, I got by on the G.I. bill benefits and scholarship grants I received from going to community college and, more recently, the New School. But eventually I couldn’t get by anymore; I couldn’t even pay rent.
One in seven homeless people have previously served in the military. This year, at 25, I became one of those homeless veterans.
One of my most vivid memories of New York City shelters is of watching a fellow black veteran having a heated argument with himself. The oddest thing was that no words were said — the man spit and sputtered and pounded his fist on his chest, all while only moving his lips. It was as if a mime was violently illustrating anger to a person who had never experienced it.
It reminded me of a conversation I’d once had in the middle of the Indian Ocean. Bored of waiting to hit land, which could take two months or more, my shipmates and I made up games. One such game, which we called “Wish List,” was simple. We had to envision the most extravagant thing we’d do in order to get an early discharge from the Navy. One guy said he’d pretend he was crazy — eat foreign objects and pull his pants down while pledging allegiance to Harvey the pooka instead of the United States of America. That got laughs.
It was hard to laugh at that veteran in the shelter, though. And others were worse off than he. The mistake that the shelter system makes is to clump everyone together. Those unstable vets lay in cots directly next to stable soldiers who lay next to ex-cons with any number of offenses. It was hard sleeping at night not knowing how innocent or guilty the former prisoner in the bed next to me was. Just about every shelter had gang members or former gang members and stories of violence and theft. Sadly, there was always someone who had taken, or at least claimed to have taken, the life of another. There was speculation that sex offenders were being quietly shuffled through the system, too.
I experienced firsthand the frustrations veterans feel in shelters each day. We were told how little we mattered by social workers with limited patience and even less training in working with recently deployed soldiers, and pushed into applying for public assistance. I wanted a job, not welfare, but I was told that no New York City shelter would house me if I didn’t apply for food stamps and warned I would fail to find work.
Despite the setbacks, I am grateful for some of the acquaintances I made. I met a former service member who worked for NASA before a crack addiction led to theft, a prison sentence and homelessness. I got to know an Army doctor who served in Vietnam. Doc, as we called him, lost it during combat and even admitted to enjoying killing people, but his charm and patience made that hard to believe. Another former-Navy man was an astronomy geek, just like me, so we hit it off instantly.
In the beginning, I blamed the government for our fate, for training us for sophisticated equipment that is found only in the military, thus limiting our job opportunities in the civilian world, and for failing to put better safeguards in place to keep veterans off the streets. I pointed fingers at my college for only granting me a small sum for food and transportation while my world was crumbling. I even found fault with my mother, for dying and leaving me and my siblings to pay for her funeral and burial costs.
But ultimately, my experience has made me realize that I’m more responsible for my situation than I’d like to admit. Drinking to excess and my uncanny ability to withstand hardship when help should be requested are two of the main culprits. Today I’m focusing on my education; I moved out of the shelter last month and am now living in a beautiful duplex in New Jersey. I have been able to find purpose in all of this: a persistent determination to do better for myself, ironically the very lesson the Navy instilled in me when I joined eight years ago.
- Opinionator | Townies: In Need, in New York (opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com)
- Downloads A Shelter Is Not a Home…Or Is It? Lessons from Family Homelessness in New York City book (cnfiizc.typepad.com)
- Fundly Spotlight: Helping Homeless Veterans (fundly.com)
- How to End Stop-and-Frisk Abuses – NYTimes.com (mbcalyn.com)
- New shelters helps rising number of homeless female veterans (mysanantonio.com)
- Vice Lords gang member: Chicago has gone ‘haywire’ (msnbc.msn.com)
- Job Training Grants to Assist Nearly 9,000 Homeless Vets (defense.gov)
- This Is How We Ride – NYTimes.com (pitsbicycleblog.wordpress.com)
- “Shelters help growing number of homeless female vet” (pamhi.wordpress.com)
- New York City’s Poverty Rate Reaches Highest Level Since 2005 – NYTimes.com (ekonometrics.blogspot.com)
Mitt Romney: “I was too important to go to Vietnam”
June 7, 2012
By Sarah Wood
Monday, at a press event in California before the GOP primary in that state, former Gov. Mitt Romney was asked about his support of United States military involvement overseas. He was pleased to answer the question, however after his response, his answer to a follow-up question regarding his four deferments from the Vietnam War did not please onlookers, especially veterans.
Romney responded to the question regarding US military involvement by stating, “We are the most powerful nation in the world, and it is our responsibility to make sure we protect all of our interests both here and abroad. This helps protect each and every freedom that has been fought for and won over the centuries of our nation’s existence. We will do what we have to in regard to strengthening our allied relationships, as well as letting our enemies know we do not intend to back down. We will stay the course of freedom at all costs. That is what our founders would have wanted.”
This very rehearsed answer to a scripted question was followed by a question that the former governor was not prepared to answer, or so it seemed by his response.
The next question asked went as follows, “Governor Romney, it is true, is it not that you had four deferments from the Vietnam War… You have said before that you support war and the efforts of US military involvement overseas at all costs, yet you made sure you would never go to war yourself. What makes you think that veterans and those currently serving in the military think that you have their best interests at heart when you yourself weren’t even interested in sacrificing your time, energy, or life for your nation at a time when it seemed most crucial?”
“That’s a good question, young man, and I would be happy to answer it. The Vietnam War came at a time in my life when I had other plans. I knew in my heart of hearts that I would one day serve my nation. That I would one day hold an office that would help not only our nation, but also the world. So I did what I could to make sure that I would be around to serve my nation, as well as serving God by teaching very important religious principles to a broader audience overseas. My father did not want me serving, and he convinced me that yes, I was too important to go to Vietnam. I had a greater purpose in life. I wasn’t neglecting my nation, but rather preparing myself for a future of service.”
An onlooker that seemingly was a Vietnam veteran shouted, “Fuck you, Romney! You wouldn’t know service if it bit you on your well manicured ass.” To which Romney responded, “Please don’t be testy, my friend. I did what I did for you, and I thank you for your service as well.” That same veteran responded, “You only served yourself, you jackass. You could’ve served your nation even if your draft number wasn’t called… but you didn’t… you chose to serve yourself instead. Thanks for revealing your true colors.”
The questioning was quickly ushered to the next topics of education and the environment. This apparent gaffe was too honest to appear to be a mistaken answer. We will have to wait and see if this topic gets brought up again in future interviews and possibly the presidential debates this fall.
- Romney dodged the draft (salon.com)
- Did Mitt Romney ‘Long’ To Serve In Vietnam? (thinkprogress.org)
- Lawrence O’Donnell Hits Mitt Romney for His Evolving Comments on the Vietnam War (crooksandliars.com)
- Romney “longed” to serve in Vietnam, but took four draft deferments (skydancingblog.com)
- The war Romney ‘longed’ for (maddowblog.msnbc.msn.com)
- Puzzling AP story cites Romney’s ‘military background’ (grumpyeditor.typepad.com)
- Romney the Draft Dodger (turcopolier.typepad.com)
- Will the MSM continue to cover for Willard’s LIES about the Vietnam War? (3chicspolitico.com)
- Romney In 2007: “I Longed to Serve In Vietnam;” In 1994: “It Was Not My Desire To…Serve In Vietnam” (alan.com)
- ‘Nam Qualm: What Mitt Romney Thought Was ‘Tough’ About His Vietnam-Era ‘Missionary Work’ (mediaite.com)
US Remembers The Dead, Forgets About The Living – OpEd
May 28, 2012
By Vladimir Gladkov
This Monday is Memorial Day in the US, a holiday observed in the US every year since the Civil War to remember American soldiers who died in the line of duty. Today, however, US servicemen continue to suffer as a result of incompetence and lawlessness on the part of the authorities. A raft of high-profile incidents of late demonstrates that the country’s military elite, while ever ready to use the memory of the dead for their own time-serving purposes, tend to forget about the living.
The unprofessionalism and incompetence of the US military leadership and state-run organizations responsible for the maintenance of US soldiers has led to many a scandal recently. The report that triggered a particularly wide-ranging outcry said that the US army had been saving for years on servicemen who suffered from psychic disorders.
A journalistic inquiry revealed that military doctors intentionally refused to diagnose soldiers with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder in order to avoid paying compensation and pensions. Information leaked to the press that the medical leadership urged doctors to ignore the disorder in order to “save taxpayer money”.
This budgetary money saving policy led to a tragedy. A US army soldier, Robert Bales, who was suffering from post-traumatic stress, killed 17 civilians in southern Afghanistan. The incident exacerbated the US’ relations with Afghanistan, a key NATO ally in the struggle against global terrorism. Bales had repeatedly complained of health problems caused by a head injury in Iraq. Nevertheless, he was dispatched to Afghanistan and as it happens, was not the only victim of the money saving program. It turned out that doctors at the Lewis-McChord base to which Bales was assigned had canceled the diagnosis of a psychic disorder for 40 percent of servicemen thereby contributing to the dispatch of mentally ill people to conflict zones.
American war veterans have been affected by this arbitrariness as well. US veteran unions have been expressing concern over an alarming percentage of suicides among servicemen who return from hot spots. In the opinion of war veterans and human rights campaigners, the main reason behind the increasing number of suicides is dereliction of duty on the part of public service employees. And in most cases, the US Veterans Department, a state-run institution created to support servicemen who return from conflict zones, is at the center of disputes.
According to veteran organizations, the Department is bogged down in bureaucracy, doesn’t react to phone calls from police and relatives, and ignores regular duties. Its employees refuse to hospitalize veterans suffering from psychic disorders. One of the most outrageous instances of that was the death of William Hamilton, a 26-year veteran of the Iraq war who was suffering from regular hallucinations in the form of visits by a demonic woman and the man he killed during combat operations. Despite Hamilton’s deteriorating condition, the Department’s officials doggedly refused to provide him with treatment. As a result, the man committed suicide throwing himself under a train.
The US authorities haven’t got the slightest idea as to where all this could lead to. As the public discontent continues to increase, the government manages to turn a blind eye on the problem. The recent incident in which war veteran Scott Olsen received a grave head injury during a police raid on the participants in the Occupy march in California, is equally unlikely to contribute to the myth that the government is taking good care of people who risked their lives putting the US government’s plans into practice. A steady rise in public protests demonstrates that Americans are getting more and more reluctant to play dubious games.
- Memorial Day Thoughts On National Defense – OpEd (eurasiareview.com)
- Memorial Day: Among Post-9/11 Veterans, Deepening Antiwar Sentiment – OpEd (eurasiareview.com)
- Cleveland Veterans’ Disability Benefits Lawyer Says Veterans Should Seek Help for PTSD (prweb.com)
- Turkmenistan: How Berdymukhamedov Can Send A Substantive Reform Message – OpEd (eurasiareview.com)
- The End In Afghanistan Is Totally Predictable – OpEd (eurasiareview.com)
- Memorial For America’s Conscience – OpEd (eurasiareview.com)
- BOLD and Out Loud RemembersThe Bold and Selfless Fallen Minority Soldiers (boldandoutloud.com)
- Op-Ed Columnist: A Veteran’s Death, the Nation’s Shame (nytimes.com)
- The V.A.’s Shameful Betrayal (nytimes.com)
- Decorated War Veterans Toss Medals During NATO Protest (crooksandliars.com)