UPI’s Mark Benjamin adds a dimension to an already high pile of concerns I have about how the Bush administration is neglecting the plight of soldiers fighting this war in Iraq.
The link to the UPI story is here, but the first bit of the story reads:
U.S. veterans from the war in Iraq are beginning to show up at homeless shelters around the country, and advocates fear they are the leading edge of a new generation of homeless vets not seen since the Vietnam era.
“When we already have people from Iraq on the streets, my God,” said Linda Boone, executive director of the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans. “I have talked to enough (shelters) to know we are getting them. It is happening and this nation is not prepared for that.”
“I drove off in my truck. I packed my stuff. I lived out of my truck for a while,” Seabees Petty Officer Luis Arellano, 34, said in a telephone interview from a homeless shelter near March Air Force Base in California run by U.S.VETS, the largest organization in the country dedicated to helping homeless veterans.
Arellano said he lived out of his truck on and off for three months after returning from Iraq in September 2003. “One day you have a home and the next day you are on the streets,” he said.
In Iraq, shrapnel nearly severed his left thumb. He still has trouble moving it and shrapnel “still comes out once in a while,” Arellano said. He is left handed.
Arellano said he felt pushed out of the military too quickly after getting back from Iraq without medical attention he needed for his hand — and as he would later learn, his mind.
“It was more of a rush. They put us in a warehouse for a while. They treated us like cattle,” Arellano said about how the military treated him on his return to the United States.
I caught Howard Dean at Restaurant Nora the other night (great place, by the way) dining with Donna Brazile and others, lobbying for the top post in the Democratic National Committee no doubt. Dean is pressing the Dems not to lurch right.
That may be good advice — but Dems need to be out front on embracing these soldiers and working hard to make sure that progressives — whether or not they support the Iraq War and Occupation — rank high among their priorities those who have sacrificed for this country.
Frankly, addressing and solving the “return problems” and financial security issues of returning combat veterans should be something both progressives and conservatives should support.
But so far, there has been little action from the White House on these matters — and the Dems are missing both a political and an important substantive opportunity to help people in need.
— Steve Clemons