Monday, June 16, 2008

Red, White, and Orange

(Webshots) VIET-R-ANS
Many of you have undoubtedly heard the statistic that 1 in 4 homeless are veterans, a fact that presidential candidate John Edwards never failed to remind us this election season. 47% of these homeless veterans served during the Vietnam War. Yesterday, I had the pleasure of speaking with a veteran at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, DC. He had found a good place to share his knowledge and personal experience. After helping find a name on the wall, he shared with me his personal story. So he began...Over 30 years ago, he fought in Vietnam, where he believes he was contaminated by Agent Orange. He has been living on the streets for the past year. The homeless shelter where he sleeps requires that he is gone until 10pm and must leave before 6am. At the moment, he is waiting months for his medical case to be processed through the VA. But his wait is not abnormal. Many others, some who live with him at the homeless shelter, have complications from Vietnam due to Agent Orange. They live on the streets, often with little prospect of ever finding a job, proper medical care, or a permanent place to stay. The question I had to ask myself is: what is our duty to our fellow Americans? The answer is not simple. The policies needed to solve such problems are never simple. There may be no perfect answer. But I am sure we can all discover some much needed insight by reaching out and speaking with our homeless veterans, hearing their stories, and then deciding for ourselves what measures must be taken by the President and Congress we elect in November.

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