View Full Version : What will become of tomorrows veterans?

11-18-02, 09:57 AM
Grizzled vets ponder how a new war will affect today’s service members <br />
<br />
By David Wood <br />
Newhouse News Service <br />
Re-printed from Navy Times <br />
18 November 2002 Issue <br />
<br />
BERKLEY, Mass. ...

11-18-02, 09:59 AM
casualties, what used to be called battle fatigue or even cowardice, often
are long-term conditions that in later years can be intensified by alcohol or
drug abuse and other problems that cause what is politely called “social
alienation.”Between 1995 and 2001, Alarcon told a Senate committee in July,
demand for veterans’ mental health care rose 26 percent while the VA
mental-health-care budget went up only 9 percent.“The quality of care has
suffered,” Alarcon said in an interview. “You don’t have time, with a
patient who is traumatized and panicky, to do individual psychotherapy, or
talk about the side effects of his medicine.”“Veterans are neglected,” said
Jack Burnett, 71, a former hospital comptroller whose VFW chapter in Whitman,
Mass., recently helped raise $10,000 for hospitalized veterans.Nationally,
the VFW one of several national veterans service organizations raises
about $30 million a year and serves some 8 million volunteer hours in VA
hospitals and other veterans programs. In many communities, evening bingo,
benefit auctions and volunteer-served roast beef dinners for homeless
veterans are events woven into the everyday fabric of life.But veterans are
aging, and so are volunteers. Fewer veterans serve in Congress, and each year
fewer Americans even know a veteran.That’s a loss, some veterans say. But
they don’t mourn the passage of peaceful years.“There’s nothing good about
war; it’s a dirty business,” said a veteran named Bob, a mental patient at
the Brockton VA Medical Center, as he carefully worked his way through a
roast beef dinner put on by the VFW post in Chatham, at Cape Cod’s elbow.“We
ought to think about it first,” said Bob, a man with many missing teeth,
surplus-store clothes and dead eyes. “War with Iraq would just be another
fiasco.”Years later, on another chilly night, there will be stories like
those told around the Legion Hall’s back table in Berkley. There will come a
lengthening pause, and someone will say softly, “I was good at it, I kept my
guys alive.”One day sometime after your first firefight, he will say, you get
the thousand-yard stare and after that there is no conscience. You live to
bring your kids home and you do whatever that takes. Some guys learn to live
with that and some guys don’t and if you don’t you are lost forever and
there are many people like that.Lost forever.How can Americans ever recognize
or repay such experience?The question is considered only briefly by David
Woods, who fought with the 1st Mechanized Infantry Division along Route 1 in
South Vietnam. He was wounded there, fought on, and was wounded again, and
again.Woods, 54, is muscular and shaggy, a federal investigator, a tough man
who speaks softly. Slowly, he extended his hand across the plywood table.
Tears swim in his eyes.“Welcome home,” he said with a powerful and gentle
handshake.The words are both a simple greeting and a deep acknowledgment.“All
you gotta say. Welcome home.” David Wood can be contacted at
YNCS Don Harribine, USN(Ret)