It can be difficult to write about our veterans while staying politically neutral, especially those in need of help. While my writing and articulation skills leave a lot to be desired, I felt a need to share a recent experience I had with a homeless veteran. Corporal, as he will be addressed for the sake of anonymity, was part of the 505 Battalion out of Fort Benning; attending advanced training at Fort Brag before being deployed to Kuwait in 1992. His enlistment ended in 1996, and he headed back to the states for what he had hoped to be the start of a promising life; attending the University of Connecticut after arriving.

Somewhere between then and now, things seemed to go off course for the Corporal, who is suffering from PTSD and chronic anxiety. After the Corporal was sorted through all of the backlogged paperwork, he was offered treatment by the VA. Their recourse for the Corporal’s issues he received in service of our country was to fill him full of pills and send him on his way. With an apprehension to psychotropic drugs, the treatment was refused. The only treatment being his service dog, Bo, a German Shepard / Boxer mix. The Corporal struggles with change and conflict in his life as a result of his PTSD, admittedly causing a divorce in 2001 and sending him on a downward spiral which has left him homeless and wandering since.

Today, the Corporal spends his days hitchhiking from town to town, setting up camp along the way. He admits that he has grown fond to the lifestyle of the vagabond; though he was forced into this position. The process of always being on the move is a sort of pseudo-therapy for him. Always running, always on the move. When I asked the US Army Corporal if he performed any sort of self-treatment he did not hesitate to admit that he now uses Marijuana daily, when available. I did not inquire anymore into this, but given the depressant properties of the drug, I assume it helped with his anxiety.

Taking this all at face value, our broken system has failed this man. This, as repulsive as it is to admit, is not surprising. Because if there is one thing that our military excels at, it is completely and utterly failing to prioritize the well being of those that fight it’s wars for it. Mental disorders as a result of war are no joke, and to push a man out the door with a handful of prescriptions for drugs is not a cookie cutter solution. The hospital seemingly just trying to get him out, so as to get another patient in…and so on. Then the Corporal goes through a divorce as a result of untreated issues. Ignoring the obvious “in sickness and in health” vow, the judicial system leaves this man without a home and without a hope.

The Corporal has held blue collar jobs here and there, renting a home in Pigeon Forge Tennessee and working as a welder most recently. But when one simply cannot get ahead enough to obtain a vehicle in order to get to work reliably, on-time, one can quickly find themselves on the road again. On the road seeking “peace,” if I may quote the Corporal. Trying to avoid the vicious cycle our broken system has dropped him into. Yet, still in good spirits, the Corporal tells me that “everything is in the Lord’s hands.” And that he has been “blessed by what I need, when I needed it.” On that note, I shook his hand for the 5th time and thanked him for his service. After handing him $10, I was on my way to my warm home, with my loving family, to eat a supper that would have been a banquet for this man. He was off to Indianapolis, a city I have flown to and, in all luxuries, enjoyed. But he was looking for “peace.” Something that most people don’t think twice about.

This experience left me thinking, are we doing everything we can in all aspects of our lives? Everything we can to help others? Perhaps, if we just took some extra time, and gave it to someone else, we could dramatically improve the lives of others. I believe this applies to everything. Are we reading our children that extra book before bed? Are we going above and beyond for our customers? For our friends? For our employers? Or, are we simply walking by those most desperate in need as I saw hundreds of people do in the ten minutes I spent with the Corporal. One lady, aside from myself, offered assistance in the way of food. Just one.

We need to put forth the extra effort. What bothers me the most about this is a question I have been asking myself since our departure. Is ten dollars and ten minutes all this man and his service was worth to me? Definitely not. I am part of the problem, just as everyone else was who turned a blind eye to the Corporal.

(EDIT: I neglected to mention the irony I experienced while talking to the Corporal. Walking out of the store I donated a few dollars to a non-profit dedicated to helping veterans get back on their feet while one sat 20 feet away! I asked if they had offered to help and their eyes glossed over like I was speaking an alien language. This, ultimately caused the interaction with the Corporal.)

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