I’ve collected dozens of quotes from homeless veterans over the years.
In some cases you get moments of unusual clarity and insight. I thought I would share a few from men who society has thrown away as so much garbage to get of.
Of course, so called, decent society will not admit that to itself, but it’s true.
Oh sure there is services to help those people – yes that is true. But rarely if ever do people reach out. I’m talking really reach out, by walking the back alleys and cruising the mean streets of America looking for these lost men.
We make excuses like “these men are alcoholic”, and in many cases that is absolutely true. These are the men who have just given up on life and spend their days wasting away on the street, or passed out drunk face first on the sidewalk. With people getting annoyed when they have to step over them, or walk around them. Alot of the time they don’t have nice things to say. I often wonder if it would make any difference at all to anybody if they knew many of these men were combat veterans?
I just don’t think it would because I have seen the indifference in which they treat these people.
Today there are an estimated 300,000 homeless veterans in the United States 50% served in Vietnam. There are many reasons for this, substance abuse and alcohol are only symptomatic of a much deeper problem going on here.
They call it PTSD, or “Post Tramatic Stress Disorder”, a fancy way of saying your “crazy”. I liken it to a type of possession,the gateway of which is guilt in many cases.
We selected a few quotes that describes PTSD. Not from cold clinicians or dispassionate doctors, but from veterans themselves, who tell it like it is.
Sam the Man – Vietnam Veteran, Los Angels California (living underneath an freeway overpass):
“When I came back, I was thinking it’s me against all of them…now. Instead of me against the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese armies..it was like me against society. Being over there, when I was 20 and when I came back, my innocence was gone, there was something missing from the equation… and I found myself all alone in life just me and my demons.”
Pete -Vietnam veteran
“It really wasn’t nice to come home too back then. We were met by protested! I almost wanted to go back that same day. I got more respect there than I do here..we were called baby killers.”
Pope Paul – Vietnam veteran
“Yes we were baby killers! OK. That is the way it is! You had to do what you had to do, OK…The people I really worry about now are the boys that are there now. Ahh let these Vietnam vets go, OK. Who the (bleep) cares! There all dead!”
Herold Noel – Iraqi vet – New York City.
“My home…you ask me about MY home, let me show you MY home. See that red vehicle over there thats my home… See man, I’m used to driving. I’m used to driving and shooting out my window. We would have to drive see with our M-16’s pointed out the window. Know what I’m saying…Just like this. You had to keep your M-16 like this here and be aware of everything around you, thats how bad it was, see. And I was in Iraq when there was nothing there. I look at the news todat shit they have Burger king there now…”
“So we are racing through see trying to get to the airport, boom, boom, boom. Stopping in little towns, we causing mayhem. Doing what we gots to do…and I’m seeing dead bodies everywhere! But hey, we had to keep our heads up, understand, cause we were like living in a good country, and they gonna take care of us, when we come back…”
So what did you find?
“Sh*t man, you see what I’m doing now. Nothing, you see me now, I came back to nothing.”
So how did you become homeless?
“OK, a lot of people say that…I’m going to tell you a story, and how it happened…When I first see my wife walking towards me, you know, she was like an Iraqi lady walking towards me. I couldn’t hold her or hold my kids. Because I see’d kid die over there. I just wanted to be away from everyone. When I came back I confined myself to a shell because I started hearing voices of kids crying and stuff and I was drinking & thinking about it…I lost my job, had no money to pay the rent. So family members said yo man come back to New York City. You need your family. So I came here. But I came here and I couldn’t qualify to get into the projects! I went to housing, they say they can’t do anything for me. I went to the shelter in the Bronx @ 153 East 151 st Street. That was disgusting. I didn’t want my kids to see that. My sister in law invited us to come stay with her. It’s a one bedroom, one bath section 8 housing unit, you understand. And can’t no 5 people sleep in one bedroom in one bed. So I had to take myself out of that situation.This is how I ended up in my car.”
One thing I noticed in so many of the quotes I’ve accumulated over the years is the feeling somehow of being haunted by the guilt and sins of your past. People forced into a situation where you have to kill or be killed wounds the human spirit in such a way that it can’t recover. So these people wander the streets in search of …what? Redemption I think. They will often times spend a lifetime looking for it, whether they are living under a freeway overpass or sleeping it off on skid row some where.
In my mind they stand as an indictment against each and everyone of us, who are too busy to care or give a damn.
I don’t have any solutions to the problems of veterans who are homeless.
And I don’t pretend to be an expert. I do identify with these veterans however because I am a veteran myself. I was also treated badly. I just have been able to compartmentalize it a little better than these guys can. I am also haunted by memories, which make it difficult to sleep. So often times I don’t.
With veterans day coming up November 11, 2010 I thought I would try and share the story of homeless vets in their own words. I’m not sure if this will do any good or not.
I quit pretending to believe there is a solution to this problem in America.
Poverty is also a huge concern, so is unemployment and lack of adequate health care.
Homelessness for veterans or anybody else for that matter is just another socialist issue people want to deny or attack. I would have to say more so for the Republicans than the Democrats at this point. But in the end we are all guilty in one way or another of looking the other way, and pretending like the problem of homeless veterans doesn’t exist.
Things must change.
In Charlotte, N.C. there are hundreds of homeless veterans out there. The exact number has not been determined. Many spend their time avoiding people, especially the police, who tend to look down on the homeless. Many wish they would just go away. But that aint likely to happen anytime soon.