Yesterday afternoon I saw a bumper sticker with the slogan: "Freedom Isn’t Free."
No matter how often I’ve seen the phrase, or how many times I’ve heard is spoken, it always has the same effect on me: straightaway my thoughts go out to all of the men and women of our military who are currently serving in Afghanistan, Iraq and other places throughout the world. My thoughts also go out to all of our nation’s veterans, who by their service and sacrifices, and many at the cost of their lives, have given us that freedom.
But, my thoughts also go out to the 500,000+ American Veterans who are homeless.
On any given night of the year, more than half of America’s homeless veterans are forced to sleep outside without shelter. Many find themselves eating from trash cans and dumpsters. Others are forced to panhandle or recycle aluminum cans and plastic bottles in order to have a few bucks in their pockets. This is due to lack of available beds in homeless shelters, a lack of agencies and organizations to help the homeless, a lack of government funding for VA programs to help homeless veterans, and just plain old government bureaucracy.
In San Luis Obispo County, a little over 1 out of every 4 homeless men are veterans. The majority of these are Viet Nam era veterans. A good number of them suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). And, in order to deal with the symptoms of PTSD "self-medicate" themselves with drugs and alcohol.
It seems absurd to me that we like to talk about "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" but ignore those who are the foundation for our freedoms. Because of the way society treats its homeless; our nation’s homeless veterans aren’t free. They are prisoners of war – and that war is homelessness.
It is unacceptable that those who have given us our freedoms should be forced to live as outcasts. It is unacceptable that those who have given of themselves who should be getting nothing in return.
Freedom isn’t about a person doing what ever they want disregarding the consequences and then denying the responsibility for their actions. Freedom isn’t about doing good things – even that’s nice. Freedom isn’t about doing what is popular. No, freedom is about doing what’s right. Pure and simple.
Freedom isn’t free.
Ask any one of nation’s homeless veterans what they price of freedom is and they will tell you that it costs plenty.