United They Stand Divided They Fall | Teen Ink

United They Stand Divided They Fall

September 29, 2010
By Alston Clark SILVER, Sliver Spring, Maryland
Alston Clark SILVER, Sliver Spring, Maryland
6 articles 0 photos 0 comments

The United States veteran’s benefit system traces its roots back to the 17th century when the pilgrims of Plymouth passed a law protecting citizens who joined the army to defend it against the hostile Peugeot Indians. The pilgrims made certain that any soldier disabled because of defending the colony could be supported by the United States.
Veterans are a special group of people because they fight to keep America safe from all types of threats. Veterans are people who have served in the United States armed forces. The Army is the largest armed force in the USA. Many of my family members were in the Army and Marine Corps and one of them is currently in the Air force.
During America’s wars, many good men and women died for a good cause. Unfortunately, the battle did not end there. Many veterans suffer from PTSD, mental illness, homelessness, substance abuse, and traumatic brain injuries. They often have to deal with these issues without adequate help. America owes our veterans more. Veterans deserve more positive media, more employment training, and housing options, and they deserve more support to reintegrate back into society.
There are many soldiers on the streets that are homeless. Many of them suffer with PTSD and do not have healthcare or jobs. Some of these soldiers also have mental illness. The definition of homeless is one who lacks permanent housing.
Homelessness is a serious social issue facing US veterans. Some estimates state that about 20 percent of all homeless people fought in America’s wars. These individuals often enlisted in order to learn useful job skills and trades. However, when they left the service, they could not obtain jobs. Another factor contributing to homelessness among veterans is PTSD, mental illness, and substance abuse. These factors can make it almost impossible for veterans to work and support themselves. The government is responsible to come to the aid of such veterans. Apprentice programs and trade schools could educate veterans and thereby empower them to secure gainful employment.
Homelessness is an issue that affects many people in the USA, many people including veterans are a couple paychecks away from homelessness. Many homeless veterans have the same story. They came home from the war or were discharged because of injuries. They now have no health care and as a ex-soldier living on Skid Row says, “I fought for the flag but the flag never fought for me.”
There are many reasons veterans become homeless. A rise in housing, an economical distress caused by the loss of one’s job can lead to homelessness. Homelessness is a simple problem to fix if everybody would stop being selfish and stop putting it off to the next person. Many homeless soldiers suffer from post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Some of the causes of PTSD are exposure to war, combat, physical, and emotional abuse. All such causes are common to the battlefield. PTSD is affected by the general public opinion of the particular war.
If public opinion of a war is negative, returning soldiers have a more difficult time integrating back into society. A helicopter gunner in Vietnam said that, “much of the PTSD wound not healing has to do with society's reaction to the returning soldier. Society holds the forgiveness, the compassion, understanding, and honor needed by the soldier to heal."
The Vietnam War was an unpopular war. Many Americans questioned the US involvement in the war and believed that the US should not be fighting a war in Asia. In fact, the Vietnam War was a new type of war against a whole new type of soldier. Over 58,193 American soldiers died. A significant number of the soldiers who fought in Vietnam were eighteen to nineteen years old. Furthermore, the Vietnam War lasted 13 years. It was the longest war in US history.
Americans protested the Vietnam War and gathered in public places to demonstrate against the war. Soldiers coming home from Vietnam were not welcomed as heroes like the soldiers coming from World War II. At the end of World War II, there were joyful celebrations. Americans were glad that Hitler was stopped.
When World War II ended, US soldiers marched down Fifth Avenue in New York City. This was the World War II victory parade. There were no similar celebrations for Vietnam veterans. Instead, the veterans were met with hostility and disappointment. This was sad.
Soldiers who go to war are obeying orders. They did not start the war or decide what country to fight against. They also do not determine when the war ends. American media needs to operate a campaign to educate the population about war and soldiers. The general population needs to know how to express their grievances with a particular war. They should not aim their criticism toward soldiers but to the policy makers and congressman in Washington, DC.
Negative public sentiment not only affected the Vietnam War veterans, it also affects Iraq War veterans. A 24 year old army sergeant, Michelle Wilmot, recently returned from a year in Ramadi, Iraq and was sitting in her college philosophy class. The students were discussing different views of wars throughout history and a female student spoke up. She said that what American soldiers were doing in Iraq was wrong, and that they all deserved to die.
“Excuse me?” Wilmot said. “I was in Iraq for a year, so I should be [expletive] dead? Really? Why don’t you come over here and [expletive] kill me? Come on do it!”
Americans need frequent public servant announcements to educate and inform them about the needs of returning soldiers. If Americans send young men and women to the battlefield, we must recognize the need to educate the public about how to assist veterans with integrating them back into society. In fact, this is what America owes our veterans.
Today’s media does a good job showing Americans sad images of war torn countries. This same media could do more to educate Americans about the difficult plight of soldiers and their need for support and encouragement.
In the case of Michelle Wilmot, who returned to college after her year in Iraq, trying to have a normal life after going to war was a daunting task. She had a very difficult time during her first semester in college. When the Iraq War was discussed in her classes, she also found it challenging to articulate her opinions without swearing.
If she faced a viewpoint that was against her beliefs, she returned to her role as a sergeant and the person with whom she was disagreeing became a private. Michelle Wilmot needs counseling and a safe place to express her frustrations.
Veterans need to be encouraged to attend counseling or group therapy sessions without having a stigma attached to such programs. According to the veterans Post Traumatic Stress Disorder Handbook, “Members or former members of the United States military are more likely than not to have experienced a psychological trauma while in the service.” Veterans should be allowed to freely obtain psychological counseling and service without feeling ashamed or having to worry about this help going on their permanent record.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is an anxiety disorder that can develop after exposure to a terrifying event or ordeal which grave physical harm occurred or was threatened. Severe forms of PTSD can make one have upsetting thoughts about a traumatic event or have recurrent nightmares. Acting or feeling as though the traumatic event were happening again is called a "flashback” which can cause feelings of distress when reminded of the traumatic event. Physical responses, such as experiencing a surge in heart rate or sweating, are reminders of the traumatic event.

The media should be used to help families of veterans feel comfortable seeking help for love ones who have been injured, physically and mentally. Many service members refuse to seek treatment for fear that it will go on their service record. Although such members will not lose their security clearance because he obtains mental health care for PTSD, increased awareness of PTSD among the general population would encourage the military to erase all stigma of seeking help.
America owes our war veterans more assistance to help them live normal lives. All of our resources should be used to provide veterans with every service, training, and job they need to continue is their role as stable members of society. Programs, committees, and grassroots efforts should organize on a continual basis as long as we are fighting a war. Using technological advances and the media to inform the general population about the challenges of veterans are crucial. Sincere gratitude coupled progressive programs are the best way to thank veterans for risking their lives for our freedom.

Veterans are a special group of people who should be given more benefits, more respect, and more love. From now on, when I see a United States veteran, I will express my gratitude for his or her sacrifice. On Veteran’s Day, I plan to put American flags on graves of fallen heroes.

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