Today, one-third of homeless adults are veterans. Half of those are Vietnam vets. On any given night, there are approximately 107,000 homeless veterans. Every night, more than 50,000 Vietnam vets sleep on the streets.
There are more than two million veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
We don't want to see the same thing happen again. We don’t want a repeat of Vietnam. We need to take care of our youngest veterans.
There is more respect for our service members now than there was 40 years ago, but the problem (apart from war itself being a problem) is that our government does not provide adequate resources for this generation.
With these new wars, there are large numbers of traumatic brain injuries. These can be present without visible wounds, and result from proximity to improvised explosion device (IED) blasts. And then there are the problems of repeated deployments. There are 25-year-olds with four or five deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan.
Add to that the problems of the catastrophically wounded. In 2003, a group of Marine wives formed the Semper Fi Fund to offer assistance to the wounded and their families. (See Around Town: Why must Semper Fi do it? Valley Sun 6/30/2011.) The Semper Fi Fund (semperfifund.org) is one of several private funds that fill the gap between the limited government benefits and the actual needs of our catastrophically wounded service members. Given the billions spent on these three wars (Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya), there should be public funds for adaptive vehicles for the paraplegics and amputees from these conflicts.
Instead, private organizations like the grassroots Semper Fi Fund raise money with walks, runs, bike-a-thons and other events to fund the $40,000 price tag for each adaptive vehicle. The Semper Fi Fund also provides adaptive home remodels so a man or woman can cook breakfast from their wheelchair, use the toilet by themselves and watch our elected officials on C-Span.
With $18 billion in aid to Pakistan since 2002, $1 billion spent on the war in Libya, $6.7 billion per month in Afghanistan, it is inexcusable that key funding for our wounded troops comes from the private sector.
As for the homeless, given the millions spent on the Veterans Administration to address that very issue, there should be have been no need for the ACLU here in Los Angeles to file a lawsuit for the proper use of those funds.
My generation forgot about the Vietnam veterans. Let’s do better this time.
We must continue to remind our elected officials to take care of our youngest vets, the veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
ANITA SUSAN BRENNER is a longtime La Cañada Flintridge resident and an attorney with Law Offices of Torres and Brenner in Pasadena. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.