How long can the American government, especially the legislative and executive branch, ignore the growing problem of homelessness, poverty and mental health issues among our veterans? We all know the struggle that everyone faced when the Vietnam Veterans came home, and even the veterans from the Korean Conflict and WWII had issues that were often unresolved.
It is my hypothesis that the continual violent effects of war upon the generations extremely, negatively impact families and our American dream.
You can't ask people to come back from war and act like everything is normal. It isn't, and it won't ever be normal again.
The United States of America has actively participated in a world war or major military conflict through every generation since WWII. As a country, we have not come to grips with the fact that Americans are suffering because of it.
Firstly, we suffer because of the dead. These people are no longer available to help our country develop. Dead young people mean fewer husbands, wives, brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers, daughters and sons available to help our American culture develop.
Secondly, when veterans return, they suffer from culture shock. In some ways it may be likened to a similar phenomenon found among released prisoners. The returning veterans have been controlled within a rigid, conservative, militaristic society that is nothing like the culture to which they return. We know this culture shock, by itself, is very disorienting and disruptive to the psyche of these returning Americans.
To their credit, American veterans work very diligently to recover...to CONTROL their personal, mental and physical, environment. This emotional and physical protection often comes at a price for the United States of America, as a whole. It makes our country become more accepting of violence, rigidity and cultural control by "leaders" who prey on the worst fears of these veterans.
What we risk, as a nation, is the polarization of the society. I believe this is caused by the cultural division of the country as some veterans believe they must save the rest of America from itself, and the natural countervailing culture that forms in reaction to their protective, conservative positions. Veterans are frequently at risk of spurning the very American culture they left to defend.
As veterans fall back on their military training to cope in a civilian world, it is often too much of a good thing. This dependence of rigidity of personality often leads veterans to become vulnerable to those elements of our society that will take advantage of their need for structure.
Because they depend on their military training to help them stay sane, veterans frequently become more rigid in their thinking. It is this very protective mechanism, this rigidity in their thinking, that causes them to be caught in the crossfire of nonmilitary society. It is at these times that veterans tend to see the majority of the population, within the culture they were charged to defend, as immoral.
I believe that the overall consequence of this rigidity and vulnerability among our veterans is their tendency to be drawn in by the more extreme, rigid elements within the conservative part of our American society. The effects of their new associations frequently put women and children at risk because of unsuitable rigidity within our fluid American society that may spawn violence.
When America flourishes, our culture is less rigid so we can adapt economically. Americans must be adaptive in other areas of culture, and that means we MUST HELP these veterans be adaptive, not rigid. Their families, communities and country need to encourage them. We can't afford for these veterans to be lost to the adaptability of American culture.
Our government and our institutions owe them a debt. A debt that can never be repaid, so we cannot leave them alone to their own devices. Veterans must be positively engaged and also entrusted with helping build our future with everyone else. Americans must help them move back into our societies and families by helping them avoid calcifying their personalities. We need their creativity from their military experiences, not their artificially protective mechanisms of rigidity.
Veterans need excellent health care. Veterans need non-denominational support from clergy, psychologists, social workers, and psychiatrists. Veterans need homes to call their own. Veterans need opportunities to support themselves and their families. When veterans have all these basic amenities, our culture will flourish from the addition of productive, relaxed, healthy citizens who will treat their families and the culture at large with fairness and respectfulness....BECAUSE WE ALL HAVE TREATED THEM IN THE SAME WAY. Respect is not something you say, it is something your do...it is an action.
Thanks to my grandfather, Lester Cassius Mast, who served honorably in France during World War I. He was very lucky to be welcomed home after WWI, and he became part of a productive family where he was a valuable leader. My grandfather is my archetype for my ideal American veteran. He believed in education, equality for all, hard work and humility. I do so miss him.
Thanks to my uncle, the uncle I never knew. My father's smart and handsome oldest brother, Alonzo Pearce Jr, a US Marine, died on the USS Arizona at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941..."a day that will live in infamy".
Thanks to my handsome, strong, smart and loving uncles, my mother's brothers. Wayne Mast and Gary Mast, served in the Korean Conflict. Uncle Wayne died a few years ago, but my Uncle Gary is alive and well, leading his family in the way our grandfather, his father, taught him.
Thanks to veterans, one and all. We love you for your effort and devotion to the country we also love, the United States of America.