Iraq/Afghanistan Veterans Transitioning Home From Warby Michael Patrick Brewer on Aug. 05, 2010, under Life, Veteran Legislative Update, Veteran Pals, Veteran Statistics, Veterans Benefits, Veterans Events, Veterans Global, Veterans' Spouses, Partners & Families
When Johnny and Joan come marching home to their beloved United States of America after service in Iraq and Afghanistan, are we prepared?
Very soon tens of thousands of soldiers, sailors, airman and marines will be rotating to their hometowns. They will be physically rotating home but their battle minds may be lagging behind a bit. Are we prepared?
Some of us crusty Vietnam vets recall the days when, “Peace With Honor,” was being implemented and our troops started rotating home in large numbers. The transition to civilian life was not the joy filled experience that many anticipated.. Given, the times have changed radically. I believe the operative word here would be respect. There is no question about the notable respect we have for our troops and the zeitgeist of gratitude that fills the air. We have learned much from the tumultuous 60′s and 70″s. The most salient of all learning being the ability to separate the war from the warrior. But can the warrior do that? And, I say again, our we prepared to help them in that separation of parallel lives they will lead for at least a year or two?
The times are no less adverse and probably more so in the polarization of political positions. Are we prepared to submerge our intractable penchant to have opinions when in the company of a soldier who may just want to be left alone? Can Americans shut up long enough to be a bridge of support for these returning troops?
“Think where man’s glory begins and ends, And say, “My glory was I had such friends.” -William Yeats
Many of these soldiers will be looking for work, many will not find work. Are we willing to be at their side while they struggle? The unemployment statistics for OEF/OIF veterans are not good. Add them to the ranks of the currently unemployed and we have a cinder box, not unlike 1973.
Where are the bridges? Who are the bridge people? Maybe Tucson could have the first and finest program in the nation for training bridge people to welcome these men and women back into polite society. Platoons of caring people trained at all the libraries in the city, with long office hours, even night shift workers, ready to listen and help.
“When you’re weary, feeling small/ When tears are in your eyes/I will dry them all/ I’m on your side/ When times get rough/And friends just can’t be found/ Like a bridge over troubled water/ I will lay me down. -Paul Simon
I challenge Tucsonans and the leadership to the task of making Tucson, Arizona one of the friendliest places in the nation to return home from war. I declare that Tucson is a Bridge City.