If you look at the homeless population around the country you’ll find a lot of veterans. Veterans of all ages, from all eras, stemming from the war on terror to Vietnam. We are everywhere and we all have stories.
Even before my own struggles, I was studying veterans homelessness, trying to decode where we went wrong.
Some of the causes are already well documented. Some not so much. First we have to talk about military to civilian transition.
What is your plan?
I had a soft answer for this when I got out a long time ago. I wish my old officers and transition personnel would have locked me in a room and forced me to come up with a complete comprehensive plan. And about three or four contingencies along with it. How are you going to make money?, I wish they could have asked me. Over and over again. If we’re being serious I don’t think they should let soldiers out until a complete transition plan is approved by a committee.
Next, is the disconnect when executing that plan.
Where did we go wrong? There are a variety of reasons here. Some soldiers get out and go on this complete party blitz and they never pull out from that nose dive. When you go from having all aspects of your life controlled, to complete freedom in an unmonitored environment with a couple grand of cashed out leave, it’s not always constructive.
A more proactive approach: Our current philosophy is very reactive. We wait for veterans to get in trouble. We wait for them to start struggling. We wait for them to become hopeless. Then we act.
We stepped up and took a proactive approach by volunteering to serve. We need these services to have the same kind of energy.
I can describe the moment I knew I wanted to join the army.
It was the Kentucky State Fair in the late 80s. There was an exhibit. Camo nets, vehicles, and some really good soldiers, that let me run around that area for over an hour. After that, everything was just prelude to when I got to raise my right hand and take the oath.
This was the beginning of a great and noble dream.
And it just breaks my heart that it ended in a struggle for housing in my case and homelessness and suicide for thousands of others.
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