Veterans represent a higher than average percentage of our homeless population. It's easy for me to understand why.. most of them are dealing with extreme PTSD. What I don't understand is how any veteran of foreign battle (either during war or otherwise) WOULDN'T suffer from PTSD after the things they've had to endure and see. Things no one should ever have to see. I couldn't even begin to imagine that. What I have seen, though, is the PTSD from it.
My Grandad fought on the European front in WW2. My Dad & two of my Uncles fought in Vietnam. My Dad won't really talk about his experience over there. One of my Uncles, however, was a sniper in Vietnam and battles severe PTSD. Fortunately, he will talk about it. My Aunt refuses to get on a plane with him because of his PTSD. He speaks fluent Vietnamese in his sleep while having nightmares, yet he cannot when he's awake. If door knobs are turned a certain way, it reminds him of artillery. He wakes up during the night and checks the perimeters through the blinds.
It is easy to understand why, when soldiers return home from a war, they can't necessarily leave it behind. It just becomes a different kind of war, one that’s within themselves. A lot of these Veterans do not know how or where to ask for help, or maybe they consider it weak & just don't want to. Some try to bury it and not talk about it. Others turn to addictions to treat it. Unfortunately, a lot of these become homeless, or worse. Most homeless Vets spent a minimum of 3 years serving our country, yet they spend an average of almost twice that amount of time (5.7 years) on the streets.
An even more heartbreaking statistic comes from a recent Department of Veteran's Affairs study that found on average, every 65 minutes, a veteran takes their own life (an estimated 20 to 22 Vets per day). Sadly, this may be underestimated due some states not reporting cause of death. Even just 1 Veteran suicide is too many.
What Can We Do To Help? Government funds are usually overextended. How do we insure no Veteran is forgotten or left behind? It takes a community effort that starts at the individual level. If we know of a Veteran who is suffering, please get them in touch with a Veteran organization locally, as well as other Veterans they can talk to that understand what they are going through. Most importantly, listen to them and pray for them. Let them know that they are not alone & that there is always hope, no matter how bad things seem at the moment.
There are also websites available where they can get immediate help:
www.va.gov (although help probably wouldn't be immediate)
There are many more websites, as well as local organizations, such as the American Legion that offer assistance to Veterans. Please post in the comments any more suggestions as well as your thoughts on how we can do more as a church or as individuals to help. Also, if you have a Veteran or someone in Active Duty in your family, please post that and which branch they served in.