As the young Veterans spent time overseas, helping other countries built up, dodging bullets and IED’s, sometimes being grateful to get a shower, missing just being able to go the grocery store, sit down at McDonald’s or Burger King in peace for some french fries and a soda without having to carry a weapon or pack.
As I daydreamed about when I came home and what kind of job I could do now that my skills were different. I looked forward to doing something or maybe just doing anything different from going from house to house to see if insurgents were present in the neighborhood and staying alive. Now I come home to find out that I can’t find a job or I am jumping at every sound. I am drinking more than I ever did before so that I can just sleep at night. I am smoking pot more than before.
I want to go home I told myself, and now I am home and it’s not here. Where the hell is home? And you don’t want me here. You offer me educational benefits, but when I got a degree, there weren’t any jobs after that. Now what? Finally, I wound as an old man on Social Security and Unemployment, struggling to stay sober. I cry when I see young veterans coming home to go through the same things I did. I want to do something, but can’t. I want to yell. I see them starting to file in at the VA Hospitals now. Some are riding the buses now. We are a proud lot, we served our country, and all we wanted, was to go home and settle down.
I never forget the one night I woke up in my fourth marriage using the bath room and a tree frog jumped out at me from the toilet. I freaked out. My ex-wife thought it was funny, not realizing that I had gone into shock as I thought I was being attacked.
Looking back on it, it was funny. But not then. And I can still hear a chopper coming miles off in spite of my hearing loss. I don’t know what I have to offer these young men…I hope they can find jobs and keep them some how…Thank you for serving.