Some advocates say the early presence of veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan at shelters does not bode well for the future. It took roughly a decade for the lives of Vietnam veterans to unravel to the point that they started showing up among the homeless. Advocates worry that intense and repeated deployments leave newer veterans particularly vulnerable.
"We're going to be having a tsunami of them eventually because the mental health toll from this war is enormous," said Daniel Tooth, director of veterans affairs for Lancaster County, Pa.
Keaveney said it's difficult for his group to persuade some homeless Iraq veterans to stay for treatment and help because they don't relate to the older veterans ...
"They see guys that are their father's age and they don't understand, they don't know, that in a couple of years they'll be looking like them," he said.
I lived near an Army base in Tennessee for several months, working with families in an LDS congregation. It was at the height of this most recent war. There were men on their third deployment in as many years. The divorce rate was staggering among infantry. It baffles me that many of the people who gave the most to protecting society end up reaping the fewest of society's benefits ... warm shelter, three square meals a day, and a productive job. But in other ways it makes sense. Without a college education, the skills combat gives you aren't exactly marketable in a civilian economy. Culture shock, mental illness caused by the stress of combat, physical disability, and the toll of deployments on familial relationships are not a good recipe for success once you return home.
Today is Veteran's Day and I've been thinking a lot about that man I saw.
If I had had cash last weekend after the ballet, I probably would have given it to him, regardless of the city's request. But we didn't and so I wanted to invite him to dinner. Dave said no. He was uncomfortable with the idea. So we kept walking and he kept on being ignored. I wish I would have run back and at least told him "thank you." Because our veterans deserve at least that much.