There is one gentleman who – although we’ve never met – I have quickly become friends with. He is a disabled American Veteran who uses the "handle" Wandering Vet. Through the wonderful medium of the Internet and e-mail, we’ve been able to keep in touch with one another.
Sadly, Wandering Vet is one of America’s 500,000+ homeless veterans. Despite having served for 11 years, other than medical treatment he is unable to get effective assistance through the Department of Veteran’s Affairs (VA) to help him transition from homelessness back into society because he doesn’t meet the necessary "criteria" – which is simply the bureaucratic way of saying that he isn’t an alcoholic or drug addict.
Currently living in New Mexico, Wandering Vet writes a blog that he has called: "Homeless Veteran’s Survival Guide" which outlines many of his day to day struggles, including the types of discrimination he had faced due to his homelessness.
These struggles include having had the local police called by a Pilot Truck Stop security guard, being ignored by Pilot Headquarters personnel when he attempted to lodge a complaint, to feelings of being an outcast among some of the Veteran’s fraternal organizations who he has at one time or another belonged to or currently belongs to.
Even sadder is that Wandering Vet is not the only homeless veteran in this nation who does not meet the "criteria" necessary to transition out of homelessness. There are tens of thousands of homeless veterans all across this nation who have honorable served this nation and now find themselves cast aside and discarded by society.
Despite the chants of "Support Our Troops" and all of the posters and magnetic ribbons with the same proclamation, it seems that we are largely a nation of hypocrites. The only ones being supported through the display of these items are the companies who manufacture them in the first place.
We seem more than content to let our nations politicians wastefully spend taxpayer dollars, as well cow-towing to lobby groups for the preservation of this mouse or that non-existent insect, or to save and old house that is falling down in disrepair.
While I applaud the effort to save all of these things, I must give a thumbs down to the very notion how easily we seem to disregard the lives of those men and woman who have given of themselves to protect the ideals on which this nation was founded.
We train them for battle, we send them to remote parts of the world and place them in harms way but when they return we hand them their walking papers and then sweep them under the rug if they happen to find themselves homeless or need our help.
I wonder just how many people would actually continue to volunteer for active service if they knew that they would be treated like non-persons upon their arrival back in the world should they become homeless?
The truth is that there are many who will continue to give of themselves to this nation through active military service.
Although it is impossible to know what the future may hold, I believe that they would still volunteer – even if they knew that one day they would find themselves homeless and looked down upon by society – because they are the true patriots.
They do not need to wear an American Flag lapel pin, or attach a bumper sticker to their vehicle: they carry the Flag within their hearts and souls…
…even when they’re homeless.