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Reader Samuel asks:

It’s one thing to say we need to prepare, or whatever, but what, exactly, would you expect us to do?

Thanks for the question. Well, there are a number of steps I’d like to see people take.

  • First: Read, talk and learn more about the issues facing vets. Post Traumatic Stress is going to be a huge factor in the lives of most returning vets.

I think most people don’t have a clue. For example: One of the first questions that many of us got when we came home was: “Hey, did you kill anyone?” This kind of cavalier attitude about killing and violence really tells me that people have no idea what it’s like to see that kind of thing. I think our ideas about combat and the expectations that most of us are going to walk back into civilian life without a struggle are unrealistic.

If you know a veteran — a friend or family member — try to stay connected to that person. Call them, plan things with them. Isolation and loss of intimacy are huge problems facing veterans. It may be hard work at times, but they’ll thank you in the long run.

I know that nearly all of my closest friends have struggled since coming home. These are not whiners. They are mature, motivated professional soldiers. Yet many are having trouble at work or at home.

  • Secondly: Find a way to contribute locally — with time or money.

There is a local group called the Veterans Village of San Diego. Every year they host Stand Down, an event that lasts at least a couple of days. During that event: “Hundreds of homeless veterans are provided with a wide range of necessities including food, clothing, medical, legal and mental health assistance, job counseling and referral, and most importantly, companionship and camaraderie. It is a time for the community to connect with the homeless veteran population and address this crisis that affects each and every town, city and state in this country,” according to their website.

(There are between 529,000 and 840,000 homeless vets on the street at some point during the year in America, according to Amvets’ American Veterans Magazine.

Veterans Village of San Diego needs money and more importantly, volunteers to help out with this. I promise you: I’m not letting another year go by without helping these guys out.  

  • Third: Contact your elected officials. I know this sounds stupid. But the volume of calls to senators and congress members really matter. Follow the news and hold their feet to the fire. Too many politicians are quick to put a soldier in uniform in their campaign ads — but what kind of political capital are they prepared to spend to take care of soldiers.

Right now in hospitals around the nation, there are wounded soldiers with pay problems, kids going without things they need.

Naval Medical Center San Diego — Balboa Naval Hospital — where I was born (the old one) — is here in town and doing its best for wounded veterans. Is there a way we can help wounded service members who are there? Do they have soldiers and families in need?

The answers are, yes there are people in need and yes there is a way to help them.

The Wounded Heroes Fund can translate your goodwill into real help vets and their families. In their own words:

When WHF was conceived we had 2,000 wounded. We now have over 20,000 Wounded and Injury Deployed Heroes. Evacuated straight out of the field and separated from their unit, they loose their support base and even their possessions. The WHF provides immediate financial assistance to our Heroes and their families. Planes tickets, hotel rooms and other basic needs make certain they have their families with them during their long road to recovery. WHF has provided over 4,000 Survival Care Packages to Walter Reed, Brooke Army Medical Center, National Naval Medical Centers in Bethesda and San Diego and to the US medical units in Iraq, Afghanistan and Germany. We have met with over 1,000 Wounded Heroes and their families. With your help, we will continue sending Survival Care Packages, assisting with inpatient and outpatient care needs at all US Military Medical Facilities, both domestic and abroad and funding Internet café’s set up in medical units in Iraq and Afghanistan to provide life lines to these young men and women who are truly The Heart of America.

Anyway, sorry to be long winded. Let me know if you have more questions.

JEFF STINCHCOMB

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