Friday, August 22, 2008

A Hometown Refugee -- The Plight of Homeless Vets

Been thinking a lot about our soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan lately and wondering what will happen to them when they finally come home.

Will they be taken care of and appreciated or will they be forgotten and marginalized like the Vietnam veterans were?

The signs are already heartbreaking. Just this week they found mold in another veteran's hospital.

Recently, it was found nearly one in five, or about 300,000, soldiers who has served in Iraq or Afghanistan has post-traumatic stress disorder or major depression -- illnesses that could cost the U.S. as much as $6.2 billion over two years in care, lost productivity and lost lives through suicide, according to a RAND report. This is tragic.

The wounds of war are not always visible and stay with soldiers for the rest of their lives.

One day while driving to work a few years ago, I saw one of our brave veterans at the side of a freeway off ramp homeless and begging for food.

And I wondered what kind of society turns its back on its soldiers that fought for our so called freedom?

That question haunted me and sparked this poem...




He's lost.
A refugee of this country.

and discarded
at freeway exits
like trash.

His grizzled
broken face
as he holds up a cardboard sign

He has a million mile stare,
gazing beyond the passing cars,
the freeway and concrete
into a world only he knows.

It's a place
beyond sadness,
beyond anger.

His is a soul obliterated
beyond recognition.

His tattered clothes
hang loosely from his bony frame.

He's waiting,
for some sign of charity.

On patrol,
he springs into action,
deceptively quick,
grabbing meager
offerings from the drivers
waiting at the stoplight.

His reconnaissance continues throughout the day.

There are no cameras documenting his plight
as with the refugees in far away lands.

Where's CNN and all the
other cable and TV channels?

Here's a refugee
in a country
he once defended.

A defender of our broken shame
even if he no longer has a home to defend.

Just what does the
ultimate sacrifice
mean to him now?

George Pappas
Copyright 2008

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