Military dream ends in homeless despair
15 Mar, 2011 18:00
The US military has exceeded their recruitment goals despite an unpopular war. Is it patriotism, or a more deceptive allure?
Army recruiting videos promise a life full of action, a step up on the career ladder, or even the dream of citizenship. This is the service’s seductive pitch, but are recruiters being completely honest about what awaits service members in the battlefield, or what they can really expect when they come off it?“They trick them with all these promises of a better life and then these people end up throwing their lives away in Iraq and Afghanistan and then come home to the situation of homelessness, of unemployment, of substance abuse,” said Michael Prysner, an Iraq War veteran.Prysner recognized that war can destroy both body and mind of a soldier, something seldom mentioned.As the US media has tired of showing America’s wars, Americans are becoming more disconnected to their troops in battle, and losing sight of the consequences: a growing number of not just veterans, but homeless veterans.“I don’t know. I had a job, I got laid off and that was it. I lost my wife,” explained homeless veteran Paul Kendrick.He is lost when he tries to remember what it was that finally landed him on the street.The Army veteran proudly fought in the first Iraq War and now feels like he, and many other vets are being trampled on.“I tried to go to the VA and all that and they said it’s going to take time,” said Kendrick. “Like two or three years, and it’s bull. You need to start thinking about the veterans today, homeless veterans.”These days, veterans are ending up homeless sooner than ever.Four years ago, Marine Robert Lee Hunter was serving his country in Iraq. Today he is hooked on drugs and living under a bridge. He also struggles to explain how he ended up homeless.“Going through a bunch of problems issues, divorce. I went to VA over here and got handcuffed to a bed, got choked out cause I wouldn’t do what they said,” said Hunter.He gets by with some food and extra clothing from the non-profit group, National Veterans Foundation.Their outreach efforts fill the gap where government agencies like the Veterans Administration have failed.Some people joined the armed services in hopes of having financial stability once they are done with their duty.Unfortunately some of them end up on the streets. That is a problem, which is expected to get even worse as more and more service members return from the war, to a dire economic situation with very few job prospects.“If you join the military for a paycheck, you came to the wrong place,” said Marine Freddy Cordova.Cordova along with the National Veterans Foundation helps homeless veterans. He admits that while some recruiters are concerned about the future of the young men and women joining the armed forces, others simply see them as numbers.“There’s a cliché in the military. Every soldier says, my recruiter lied to me,” said Prysner, “It’s just something that we all know.The reality is, you’re less likely to find a job when you get out of the military, despite promises that you’re more marketable on the job market.”The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Mike Mullen, recently expressed concern over the creation of a generation of homeless veterans, a practical and moral burden for the US for decades to come. Despite the warning, some conservative lawmakers like Michele Bachman have proposed cutting funding for veterans. That is something that proud American vets do not like to hear.Take care of America and then take care of the world,” said Kendrick. “America’s not taking care of America.”