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Tuesday, February 08, 2005

The First Wave 

From our esteemed colleague Kerensky 97 at An Eye Opener comes word of a new and distressing parallel between Iraq and Vietnam -- homeless veterans of Operation Iraqi Freedom, living in shelters or on the streets, "in part because of high housing costs and gaps in pay":
While the numbers are still small, they're steadily rising, and raising alarms in both the homeless and veterans' communities. The concern is that these returning veterans - some of whom can't find jobs after leaving the military, others of whom are still struggling psychologically with the war - may be just the beginning of an influx of new veterans in need. Currently, there are 150,000 troops in Iraq and 16,000 in Afghanistan. More than 130,000 have already served and returned home . . . .

"You can have all of the yellow ribbons on cars that say 'Support Our Troops' that you want, but it's when they take off the uniform and transition back to civilian life that they need support the most," says Linda Boone, executive director of The National Coalition for Homeless Veterans . . . .

A recent study published by the New England Journal of Medicine found that 15 to 17 percent of Iraq vets meet "the screening criteria for major depression, generalized anxiety, or PTSD." Of those, only 23 to 40 percent are seeking help - in part because so many others fear the stigma of having a mental disorder . . . .

Nicole Goodwin is another vet diagnosed with PTSD who has yet to receive disability benefits. Unable to stay with her mother, she soon found herself walking the streets of New York, with a backpack full of her belongings and her 1-year-old daughter held close.

"When I first got back I just wanted to jump into a job and forget about Iraq, but the culture shock from the military to the civilian world hit me," she says. "I was depressed for months. I couldn't sleep. I couldn't eat. The worst thing wasn't the war, it was coming back, because nobody understood why I was the way I was."

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