By Ralph De La Cruz
Florida Center for Investigative Reporting
When I was a kid, we used to speculate about a day when there wouldn’t be a Veteran’s Day because it had been so long since we had been at war that there weren’t veterans.
Excuse the naivete of children and their times. It was the waning days of the Vietnam War. And the invasions of Grenada and Panama in the 1980s didn’t do much to quell such fantasies.
This Veteran’s Day, in our 10th year of war on multiple fronts in the Middle East, we sure don’t lack for veterans. Only how we deal with them.
The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have given us more than 2 million new veterans.
One in five suffer from major depression or post-traumatic stress disorder. And more than 40,000 have come back physically wounded.
And we’re struggling with how to address their needs. Science can make miracles happen. The only question is whether we can afford miracles.
Florida alone has 8,690 homeless vets. And is one of the states that has done the poorest job of keeping up with the need for emergency and permanent beds for homeless vets.
Throughout the country, there are believed to be 107,000 homeless veterans, more than half (56 percent) black or Latino. One in four of the homeless people you see on the streets are likely to be veterans.
And that 107,000 figure would be much higher if not for Veteran’s Administration homeless programs which helped 92,000 veterans with housing. War creates demands. Particularly vicious wars without boundaries or rules.
Can we be surprised that the suicide rate among veterans is climbing?
The focus of Veteran’s Day always tends to be on heroes and sacrifice. In 2010, as we begin to hear tough talk about hard budget cuts, it needs to be broadened by two words: national responsibility.