America: stop abandoning your veterans

Credit%3A+Michael+Morales%2FThe+Foothill+Dragon+Press

Otto Tielemans

Credit: Michael Morales/The Foothill Dragon Press
Credit: Michael Morales/The Foothill Dragon Press

No matter where you go in Ventura, you are bound to come in contact with someone who is homeless.

This is especially true in the poorer quarters of our city, where you find a relatively large population of people who lack basic necessities and are confined to a life on the streets.

Unfortunately, we tend to look at these individuals and immediately categorize them all as perpetual drug users, petty thieves, or murderers (sometimes even a combination of the three). It is this stereotype that makes it easier for us forget that at their very core, they are people just like us, with their own past and problems.

Sadly, the majority of people see them as pesky annoyances rather than people with thoughts and emotions. The thought that any of these homeless individuals could be a decorated war veteran does not even cross our minds.

However, the reality of the situation is that a whopping 23 percent of the homeless population is composed of veterans. That means that almost one out of every four homeless people on the street devoted a part of their life in some way to the safety of this country.

Many who have returned from war witnessed traumatizing events that have scarred and possibly even permanently injured their mental state. Approximately 76 percent of veterans develop some sort of alcohol, drug or mental health problem. But let’s keep in mind that these people are not just numbers, they’re someone’s son or daughter, mother or father, grandmother or grandfather.

That being said, is this the way we are going to reward the people who put their life on the line for us? As a country are we honestly going to continue the practice of giving up on our brave men and woman in uniform once they have finished their service?

When leaving office, presidents receive a hefty pension, stellar health care benefits, and an armada of security guards to keep them protected. If men who devote four or eight years of their life to public service receive this type of security and benefits, then so should those who were at the front lines and constantly crossed the threshold into danger each time they were deployed or went on a mission.

Thankfully, our congresswoman Julia Brownley has made leeway in the battle to aid our veterans. She has proposed a bill that guarantees adequate funding for veterans’ health care benefits. However, while this type of action is amazing, it does not solve the entire problem.

As citizens of this country, it is our responsibility to be proactive in helping those who are less fortunate and who have given so much for us. While we may be able to secure more tax payer dollars for benefits, it falls upon us to ensure that those who may not be receiving aid or benefits do have a pillow to fall back on.

We do not have to agree with war. Nor do we have to agree with the sometimes unethical tactics used during combat. However, the least we can do for the men and woman who put their life on the line for our safety and freedom is give them the satisfaction of having a home and the benefits needed to have a comfortable life after the atrocious things they witness abroad.

The future well-being of our veterans is in our hands. Let us be conscious that as we are on our computers reading this, there is some veteran on the street who is cold, tired, and hungry. As our brother’s keeper, it falls upon us to help those who have given so much for our country, our safety, and our republic.

This is not a Republican issue, this is not a Democrat issue; it is a people issue. America must come through and give those who have given to it the proper care they deserve. 

What do you think?