Dear Sticky Wicket,
With President Obama’s announcement that our soldiers are coming home from Afghanistan, and America’s ongoing high unemployment rates; how difficult will it be for these men and women of all races and ethnicities to find work? Will and/or has this upsurge of returning heroes resulted in something similar to the Vietnam veterans of today many of whom are homeless and have no support from, or belief in this country’s willingness to help them?
~Dismayed in Tennessee
Earlier this year, President Barack Obama promised to bring home 10,000 troops from Afghanistan by the end of the year. And he pledged to bring back another 20,000 troops by the end of September next year. A troop or platoon can consists of 16 to about 50 soldiers. Any way you do the math that means millions of veterans will soon flood a job market that’s already weak. That’s not counting the drain this influx will also place on mental health, physical health and social services.
The results could be staggering says Chrisanne Gordon a rehabilitation physician with the National Veterans Organization in Los Angeles, Calif. She is also working on a documentary entitled “Operation Resurrection” that hopes to present solutions for the returning veterans by enlisting civilian resources.
Gordon says this homecoming has the potential to be far worse than it was during the Vietnam era. “The signature wound of these conflicts is a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), with an estimated 400,000 veterans’ nationwide dealing with this injury and subsequent disability,” she says. “This injury is not being adequately treated or diagnosed, making employment extremely difficult when the competition for the position includes college graduates without a service record that includes TBI.”
Gordon adds that many military veterans come from rural communities where jobs and educational opportunities are fewer than in larger, more populated areas. “This is one of the reasons why the average time for a Vietnam veteran to end up homeless was 15 years, and currently, it is as low as 15 weeks in many segments of our country for our returning Iraq and Afghanistan veterans.”
Kate Kohler, a former U.S. Army Captain, is already doing something to try to help offset the problem. She is the chief operating officer of the Pentagon Federal Credit Union Foundation, a non-profit organization designed to help meet the needs of military personnel and their families. “We believe that not only the military but the VA does an excellent job of care, but there are so many returning veterans that sometimes simply the paperwork doesn’t catch up with the person,” she says.