On this Fourth of July, I couldn't help but think of the more than 100,000 homeless veterans wandering the streets of America. I feel shamed by the fact that we Americans ask people to leave their homes and families to take up arms in foreign countries to defend us and when they come back home we do not see that they receive adequate care.
For some of us, that puts a lie to all this patriotic talk on the part of some government officials about how proud we are of those who serve. All that pride doesn't translate into providing safe homes, health care, treatment for their mental conditions or even a clean bed for some to sleep in at night.
This is a tremendous problem and one that cannot be solved overnight. Veterans groups, federal government agencies and communities all across the country are joining together to try to provide services for those who have served. It seems to me that every community, town or city that has a recruitment center should have an active group on the local payroll to monitor the needs of their veterans and be on hand to assist them in getting whatever help is needed.
The same people who claim there should be no such thing as a free lunch are enjoying one every day at the expense of those who have put their lives on the line to fight for this country. Because, certainly, if your community town or city is not a part of the solution to providing veterans with help, then you are more than part of the problem. Total disregard for the men and women who have risked their lives and well-being for our safety is to display ingratitude, disrespect and indifference for their sacrifice.
I have always been opposed to a volunteer army. I think the defense of the country is everyone's responsibility. I'm not suggesting that those who are truly conscientious objectors should have to pick up arms and go into battle. But I do think that all citizens should be required to participate in some form of national service. I really don't believe that the serious needs of our veterans would be ignored if members of every family were drafted into service. Of course, there would be a lot of yelling and screaming if a draft was instituted. And that's a pity — because of our having a volunteer army some people truly believe they should have a choice in whether they serve the country or not. Personally, I don't think we should be proud of that.
I believe that if our priorities were in the right place when we provide services for people in need, our veterans should be right at the top along with women and children and senior citizens. Currently, veterans organizations along with federal veteran service agencies are working to eliminate veteran homelessness. But in the meantime, I think more civic clubs and organizations should answer the call and do what they can on a local level to address this problem. Many of these men and women have mental disorders such as post-traumatic stress and others have alcohol and drug problems and that makes the streets unsafe for children.
I know that these military programs in high schools claim that they do not recruit. I can't understand why they are there. I don't know of any jobs in America that require their personnel to wear uniforms and march. Following the Vietnam War many parents thought these programs were a bad idea. But I guess since no one has to worry about a draft anymore they can be looked upon as just a part of the school curriculum.
It's interesting how easily our society adjusts to what are considered "necessary evils." Homelessness should not be necessary in any civilized country. We make certain our house pets are sheltered and we have barns for our horses and coops for our chickens. Allowing human beings to live on the streets is not healthy or civilized behavior. And when some of these people have been shot or had mines implode at their feet on our behalf, it's downright inhumane and disgraceful. And some would have us believe this is a Christian country.
In any case, I celebrated this Fourth of July by reminding myself that the flying of a million flags in no way compensates for the pain and suffering many of our servicemen and women have endured.
We owe them more than that.
You can join the conversation with Rose M. Nolen by calling her at 882-5734 or e-mailing her at firstname.lastname@example.org.