The reality of a Soldier’s life

A Veterans Appreciation Report

My name Is Michael, and I have known my share of veterans in my day. I have relatives who have served in the Military. I have seen a lot of aspects of what it is to be a soldier. And I have been confronted with a shocking reality these past 10 years as I grew and learned enough about life to see it for myself. I used to think all the smiling faces of people saying “thank you for your service” was a sign that our people didn’t take for granted a soldiers service. The reality of it is that it’s easy to smile when you are just passing by. But take a moment to consider what that really means to be thankful for a soldiers service to our nation’s military!

In order to do that one must be able to grasp what a soldier is and what a soldier does.

Soldier:

  • One who serves in an army!

Is it as simple as that?

To Serve:

  • Assistance; help.

So when you think about a Soldier; a soldier is someone who serves. Serving means to assist or to help? Help with what? Some could argue that point all day long. Some would say that it is painfully clear; others are blissfully ignorant of the reality of it. A soldier is the one you see on those posters and commercials and they often times have similar tones and messages.

  • Honor & Glory
  • Careers and tuition assistance
  • Patriotism, etc.

Say you were to join the service in any of its many different factions and branches, what might you experience? Could it be the glory and the pride? Could it be the honor and distinction and the right to wear the uniform and bear arms in defense of your nations security and survival? Or could it be that there is a whole other world to a soldiers life far beyond and far more impactful than any poster or recruiting commercial could ever express?

Any educated person can figure out that a Soldier is the person with the hardest career in the nation. Not the President, not the congressmen, but the man on the ground in a trench in the wild where it could be 40 Degrees below zero… and he can’t get in his car and warm up, or go home at the end of the day… he cannot even start a fire for warmth because that would draw attention and heighten the danger.

A soldier sits in the cold, wades in the swamp, digs in the dirt, climbs hills, mountains, crests, valleys, canyons, and faces some of the worst hazards and threats on this earth.

Why?

There are things out there, and enemies all around, that normal people and their families never have to face. The soldier is a person who is trained and serves in wherever that danger lies; to keep the danger outside our towns and our homes, even our nation as a whole would not be able to survive without the sacrifices of our service men and women. That is a fact!

Have you ever had a rough day at work? I’m sure we all have. Your boss was rude? Your head hurt? Your co-workers were idiots? But it’s fine, you got through your shift and now you get to go home and have some food or whatever form of relaxation you choose. It’s fine right?

Now imagine you cannot go home for a year?  Imagine you’re not even allowed to come back to the country because your job is the military and your duty requires you to serve where the military needs you most? Imagine that there is no family time to close out your day.  You do not get to grill steaks or go to restaurants you used to love because what you have to do is worlds away. And that is the least of your troubles. If you are serving overseas there are many things you will encounter you never had to comprehend on a normal day at a factory. You could well be going to war and war is the most horrific thing anyone could hope to experience.

There is no clear answer for war and all its hardship. There is no clear line as to where you are safe and where the danger is. The strain of that uncertainty has broken the strongest of men and women. For some soldiers there is no comfort even when the war is over. It is a sad truth that many men and women returning from war have suffered extreme hardships and carry injuries and psychological damage far beyond the battlefields they managed to return from. For a soldier, The heartache never truly ends.

I for one strongly #SUPPORT and admire our nation’s finest men and women of the United States Military! It can be nice to hear so many speak of their support and their appreciation for the sacrifice and service. And to that end, I must hold back bitter anger because despite my personal feelings and emotions… Our soldiers who served so diligently seldom get the welcome “home” they deserve.

It makes me cry when I see people telling relatives “thank you friend for his service” or when you hear people smiling and thanking each other for their friends or family who have served. Why does it make me cry? It makes me cry because for most people it seems…. That is as far as the support goes. I wonder if they are aware just how difficult it is for a soldier returning from service to try and come back the home he used to know because for the majority of soldiers even if home is as they left it… They are not as they were when they return.

No one comes through war unscathed. It pains me to know what these brave souls must endure to protect the nation we at home often take for granted. If you think our veterans are taken care of as they deserve to be…. Maybe people should take a minute to reflect on the research of our nation’s veterans. Are many of them aware of the number of veterans who are homeless and in ill health? Sure the VA is there for them, but their treatment is subpar at best. I have personally witnessed the most shameful treatment in my life in the time I accompanied a friend to the VA for something as simple as a shoulder injury assessment.

At the VA I take a look around and am saddened by what I see. Men of all ages and of all manner of wounds herded into a cramped and noisy lobby with crumpled magazines and rather impersonal staff telling them to be patient. Some of these veterans I spoke to waited over an hour for appointments normally taking only 15 minutes.

This is what I experienced in a VA Hospital: I arrive with my friend who was told on the phone to come straight to his appointment. In the lobby he asks for directions to the designated area of his appointment as instructed. The lobby attendant decides he has to wait and be patient and they will call him eventually without calling to confirm his instructions first.

Nevermind that he was instructed to do something, apparently this VA’s staff doesn’t seem to believe in diligent service… God forbid they understood the “#SERVICE” of these brave souls they are supposed to be treating. Trying to reason with her was only a setback despite that he explained to her his specific instructions. As though she were talking to a scolded child rather one of our nation’s servicemen.  She tells him to be patient and take a seat, he will be called. Through it all my friend maintained his posture and manners which was a respect she did not return.

I had to put aside my anger at that confrontation because I could see the hardship in a room full of broken bodies that had no choice but to reside to the hand they were forced to play and the staff were as rude and indirect as any I had seen in any hospital. It was not my place to make a scene and risk adding to the strain of the great veterans in the lobby. I couldn’t do anything in that moment except offer my condolences, but it was pulling at my heart the entire time.

That was a day I was ashamed to call myself an American… If being an American means that we ask brave men and women to protect us and to serve our nations causes and to treat them like convicts or overgrown children like the VA had done – it is disgraceful. When a nurse checks your injuries for range of motion and you tell her you’re in pain and you are scoffed at in vagrant disrespect… It made me so angry; yet what could I do at that minute aside from raise my voice? That would not have helped my friend, and it wouldn’t have changed her attitude.

That day something stood out that previously I didn’t want to have to experience. I came to see that to some people their tax dollars are the extent of their support for our military. The military is not a war machine; it is a lifeline in today’s world.  Yes they are trained to fight wars, but they are also a deterrent to hostiles all over the world. We are not the only nation with a military but in a world with growing flames they are the Firefighters on a world scale and they deserve better than what they receive.

Under Obama Presidency the experience for many of our nation’s service personnel are being cut down on their pensions and benefits like never before. Some are cut outright from the benefits that they depend upon for their survival and their family’s security. Does that sound right to you? It Isn’t!

Our nation’s soldiers are the ones that are burned by napalm and torn apart by shells and bullets. NOT the President! Our soldiers during their time of service have to work hard physically and mentally every day, and they have to endure grueling training and preparation. I don’t like hearing people say that the president has the toughest job.  Ask the man in the trenches, or in the jungles where the heat is unbearable and the bugs are like a moving carpet and the dangers and injuries are a daily occurrence. Does the President and his Hawaiian vacations have to deal with that? Or his many golf outings? Do they compare to the fortune that maybe if he comes back from patrol a soldier might get to eat in a crowded mess hall with his fellow soldiers whose families are thousands of miles away? NO… the President does not have the toughest job.

Putting your pen to a paper that tells other people what to do, and puts into action different aspects of government is not as hard to live with as staring down the barrel of a loaded gun trying to fight the enemy you might not even be able to see clearly. Getting Comp meals and Air conditioning, Personal security at all times and luxurious accommodations does not compare to the base life. In desert storm you don’t have the ever present luxury of accommodation.

There needs to come a point where we all take a look around at what is happening, and see how bad things have become in our country today. Riots are occurring, and the “Racial” tension is as taut as it’s been for nearly 25 years. It isn’t right that our National Guard are being forced to enter US cities to quell disturbance and violence because a community is lashing out at a judicial decision regarding a police officer’s accountability. It is a terrible thing when our nation’s military is forced to march into our own cities to put out fires that our own citizens are starting. It makes me saddened to know all their training and is not being put to use keeping the enemy at bay because we are consuming ourselves from within.

How can that be? We’re the land of the free! Home of the brave! Yet our people are turning on each other in record numbers. Now the nation’s armed forces are being strained like never before because of growing threats from afar and within. They just can’t be expected to put out every fire that starts. We have to be responsible enough to appreciate that while the military is in effect, It is un-American to burn down the very foundation they bleed to uphold. #ShameOnUs!

Do you want to be asked to fight on some distant battlefield? Do you want to risk traumatic injury or even death? Most people don’t. But our veterans are people just like us who know the danger but are still willing to face it to keep us safe and free. That may seem like a joke to some people, but believe you me it is a powerful truth. It is time we recognize that Veterans of our nation are at an all-time low as to their overall condition and welfare. Sure they could serve us proud overseas. But here at home we have failed them miserably. Take a look at these statistics!

Veterans & Homelessness

  • Number of veterans as of Sept. 2009:  approximately 23 million1
  • Increasing numbers of returning military personnel:  according to the Mass. Dept. of Veterans’ Services, approximately 31,000 service members have returned to the Commonwealth since Sept. 11, 2001.
  • Between 529,000 and 840,000 veterans are homeless at some time during the year.2
  • On any given night, more than 300,000 veterans are living on the streets or in shelters in the U.S.
  • Approx. 33% of homeless males in the U.S. are veterans.2
  • Veterans are twice as likely as other Americans to become chronically homeless.2
  • Veterans represent 11% of the adult civilian population, but 26% of the homeless population, according to the Homeless Research Institute (2007).
  • Veterans are more at risk of becoming homeless than non-veterans
  • The number of homeless Vietnam-era veterans, male and female, is greater than the number of soldiers who died during the war.1
  • Primary causes of homelessness among veterans are:
  1. Lack of income due to limited education and lack of transferable skills from military to civilian life (especially true of younger veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan)
  2. Combat-related physical health issues and disabilities
  3. Combat-related mental health issues and disabilities
  4. Substance abuse problems that interfere with job retention
  5. Weak social networks due to problems adjusting to civilian life
  6. Lack of services.3

http://www.veteransinc.org/about-us/statistics/#homelessness

I say again… We have failed as a nation to uphold the constitutional rights and freedoms these brave men and women gave their prime, livelihoods, and their health to uphold. And in many cases… They gave their blood so that we didn’t have to. This is why I am writing. This is what I’m trying to bring to light. We are indebted to the sacrifice of some of the most heroic men and women in the world. We as a nation cannot ignore their plight any longer.

I feel it is wrong of me to have at least 300,000 of my nation’s finest sitting in shelters or on the streets homeless when they gave their service to our people. Well THEY are our people, and we are theirs. WE are all ONE people, One nation, under GOD, Indivisible, with Liberty and Justice for All. It’s high time we start acting like it again. Come on America! Let’s take care of our people… Each and every one of them!

Our veterans are our nations heroes. If I leave you with anything in this report: I plead with you to take a look around at what is happening to our nation’s finest and remember we can all make a difference in their lives just as they do for us. If they are homeless or hungry there needs to be a change. Our veterans deserve better than to starve or freeze or to wilt in the sun for lack of support. They brave the danger; we can at least give them a home that welcomes them with open arms and respect. It’s the right thing to do!

No more neglecting our veterans. They deserve as much as anyone in this life does. I understand the world struggles, It’s full of people like you and me, but my mother could not have raised me if she gave away our food and watched me starve. The same goes for our Veterans; WE cannot feed the needy in other countries yet watch our own go hungry. It isn’t right.

If our veterans fought to keep our country intact and upright, we should honor their sacrifice and courage by standing up for what is right. Turn our attention to the real problem; we as a nation have lost our way. If you care for your home, and the welfare of your neighbors and countrymen as we all should, then it is our constitutional obligation and right to stand against tyranny and uphold freedom and not let our people suffer.

WE the people, of the United States used to hold these truths to be self-evident. All Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

How about it America? Do you hold these truths to be self-evident? If you do believe, it is our responsibility as Americans to uphold them. We can start by getting our veterans the love and care they fought to earn for all our people young and old. God bless you all, and thank you for taking the time to read my report. I pray that this will be a year of change, but for the better. Good luck and Godspeed!

Michael
I'm a man too complex and with a personality too deep to write in a paragraph, but I am always open to conversation. I like movies, music, history, And I do what I can for my friends!