Coming home from Iraq and Afghanistan many veterans are facing new challenges. The recent government shutdown has added to their problems causing the rest of us to expect more will be done for them than tying yellow ribbons around our oak trees or walking up to them to say “thanks for your service.”
Even before the furloughs, last paychecks, closed parks, and uncertainty and before Congress and the president reached gridlock, vets felt their government was failing them. Many had trouble getting entitled disability compensation or needed medical attention. It seemed to be one big waiting game and they faced hassle after hassle. Some of them returned from combat with wounds you could see. Others returned with hidden wounds only visible through the eyes of physicians.
These wounded men and women face depression. Some of them cannot sleep without pills, drugs or booze. They are struggling with readjustment after returning from combat to civilian life. What they face is a bad economy, unemployment, shortages, a closed government unable to function or solve its problems.
The unscathed are facing and meeting their challenges as best they can. Others are tormented, struggling and in need of assistance. The America they have come back to is not the same one they left for war.
What can they do? For one thing take advantage of the GI Bill. Retrain and prepare for the new America. Take advantage also of programs of assistance offered veterans and use what is learned to gain access to jobs, healthcare and needed services.
Work to get our government up and running again and to ensure bus loads of fellow veterans are never again turned away from their memorials because Democrats and Republicans cannot govern. This government shutdown has rippled across America and its final consequences still are not known. Not only veterans, but average citizens are very disappointed in our president and our Congress. Frustration is widespread.
Just because our government has switched off the lights and closed shop causing untold pain to innocent people is no reason for veterans to do the same. Veterans know how to protect our freedom. Maybe they can teach the rest of us to do the same. Together we can overcome this gridlock.
Jack Simpson is a former educator, a veteran, an author and a law enforcement officer. His column appears each Friday.