Los Angeles might be the largest urban area in the richest country of the world. But you wouldn't know that if you were standing in downtown LA's Skid Row, seeing the sidewalks crowded with homeless, many of them veterans, many more of them mentally ill, on crutches, or in wheelchairs.
It seems like the more we know about PTSD, the more there is to know. While the term PTSD didn’t enter our language until the 1980’s, writers since Herodotus have been describing it. I’ve talked here before about the various treatments in use now, modalities that range from holistic to pharmaceutical. One thing I didn’t mention earlier was hyperbaric oxygen therapy, or HBOT, the application of pure oxygen.
Vietnam veterans showed us the breadth, depth and long-term ramifications of non-physical injuries—Post Traumatic Stress. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have brought greater awareness to the issues returning veterans face in healing both physical and emotional injury while transitioning out of the military back into society.
A lyric heard in elevators, markets and malls probably since last Thanksgiving. But an impossible dream if you’re among the chronically homeless. Statistics from the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty in July of 2014, showed that over one million people were homeless, and 40% of those were U.S. military veterans.
The message came in on our website from the caretaker for a vet. Richard Miller, a Vietnam vet, wrote to us about Joe Max Orr, a Navy veteran who’ll celebrate his 100th birthday this December 7. This will be his first birthday celebration since 1941, Pearl Harbor Day. On that day, Joe did not celebrate his birthday, but instead honored the fallen at Pearl Harbor.
Veterans Day is next Tuesday. Our nation has seen twelve years of combat in Iraq and Afghanistan. The war has been present, but perhaps at a safe distance for those who haven’t had someone close to them in harm’s way. One thing is clear: it’s going to take all of us to bridge the civilian/military divide and completely reintegrate our warriors back into our society.
This reintegration is not a new process. I’ve been working with veterans’ “coming home” since the Vietnam War.
As the Women Veterans Outreach Coordinator at the National Veterans Foundation, I work with many veterans who are struggling to reintegrate into civilian life, but one of the most challenging and frustrating aspects of my work is helping young vets who are homeless. There are so many, and I have cannot believe the numbers of veterans, and particularly women veterans, who are living in their cars.
As Veterans Day approaches, I wanted to highlight a couple of veterans’ successes by sharing stories that show the importance of vet-to-vet connection and what can happen if treatment and housing options are available to help vets rebuild their lives.
It was 1987, a little over ten years after the end of the Vietnam War, when Good Morning, Vietnam opened in theatres across America. The actor playing Airman DJ Adrian Cronauer won a Golden Globe Award for “Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture”, an American Comedy Award for “Funniest Actor in a Motion Picture (Leading Role)”, and was nominated for a “Best Actor” Academy Award. That actor was someone very special.
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