My brother is a two-tour Vietnam Vet. He was not drafted, he enlisted. He spent much of his deployment on the border or in Cambodia as a Helicopter Crew Chief and a Door Gunner.
During his deployment, he was shot down five times. The 5th time, they sent him home.
After arriving home, he proudly put on his uniform, donned with medals, and met his friends for lunch in Harvard Square. His pride and confidence quickly faded when instead of being greeted with gratitude and respect, he was heckled and actually spit on by protestors of the war. Upset, confused, discouraged, my brother headed home. I watched him put his medals and uniform in a box. We never saw them again.
Since that day, he’s been married a few times, became a hard drinker, and taking more medications than he can afford.
It wasn’t until 40 years later when the VA office finally took the extra time to diagnose him beyond the physical pain he endured each day due to combat experience, that they realized he was also suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress (PTS) Symptom as well exposure to Agent Orange. He has truly been to Hell and back! He said to me last month, “If I knew I was going to live this long, I would have taken better care of myself.” I have loved and respected my brother all these years and I embrace him for his Service to his country.
Today, he is doing much better emotionally. He finally has a stable relationship, but physically, he is still a mess due to numerous service related injuries.
Today’s active military are given respect and support in our community. Today, people understand the stress, both physically and emotionally, war can put on a human soul. But 40 years ago, the 500,000+ guys (http://www.statisticbrain.com/vietnam-war-statistics/) who went to Vietnam paid a big price. Many had to wait 40 years to get the support they needed, and a chance to get their life back on track.
And they are still not okay. We are still seeing the effects this war had on these men as their addictions, broken families and PTS send them into homelessness. Today, 20-30% of the men who come to San Diego Rescue Mission looking for help are Veterans. We owe them our respect, and our help.
This holiday, as you enjoy a festive meal with your family and friends, I’d like you to think about the 57,849* homeless veterans just looking to eat. They served our country, will you help serve them?
*US Department of Housing and Urban Development 2013 Report