Battleground Masters

“You’re Welcome But
You Can’t Crash Here.”

If you’re one of the thousands of veterans returning to the U.S. from Iraq, welcome back. You’ve probably already heard it before, but let’s restate the fact of how grateful we all are for your sacrifice.
Now, there’re a number of facts that can be said about you: you’re coming back from a few tours in Iraq e possibly in Afghanistan too, but you know of many who did not.
You also know of some who did it but with serious physical and psychological wounds; you think you’re fine but perhaps have considered the possibility of seeing someone to help you cope, too. Despite the medals you’ve earned over there, you’re still not sure of what to do with your life from now on; and you’ve already been told at least twice, that there’re no jobs available.
Now, a few things you may not have heard about what’s going on around here, and we must warn you, they may hurt: regardless of what you’ve been told, most people have all but forgotten you were even there.
There’s a record number of Americans living under the poverty line, and the national unemployment levels match those of 70 years ago. Worse: while the figures are hovering about 9% of jobless, they go up for veterans.
You might as well know too that the comparison is also unfavorable to veterans when it comes to mental illnesses including suicide, homelessness and foreclosure procedures, family debt and divorce.
Oh, and apart from President Obama, almost all contenders to the White House have expressed desire to privatize health care or restrict at least some benefits to veterans, which would likely increase your current rates.
In other words, and that’s also something that you may have heard even before setting foot on your homeland, at least in these first months, you may seriously wonder whether you came back to the same country, or you’d rather have stayed abroad for good.
That’s when we step in to ask you to please, take a moment. Because, boy, do we have a job for you. We know, it seems unfair that after all this time that you were out there and all but being ignored, we now have yet another chore for you to take care of for us.
We know that you guys never got the armored vehicles and the high tech gear and the background support and, god damned it, the American public’s hand, which you so desperately needed while there.
We know how, after having gone on a couple of tours, you were asked yet again to go back to those infernos, because a couple of speeches in Washington convinced the government we needed to stay a bit longer.
And we know how those countries transfered all their hatred about the misguided policies of our government in the region to you, who were there to do a job that could, and in many cases really did, cost your own life and that of your brothers and sisters.
But here’s something that few if any have told you: you’re badly needed here to help us change this country. As a vet, as a part of a minority of Americans who actually volunteered to serve the U.S., no one else has the same legitimacy to speak up.
You see, there are forces in this country that all but have already discarded your contribution. Who don’t really expect you to survive the reintegration into the simmering and toxic atmosphere of our domestic policy.
As a matter of fact, there are many who won’t see you coming. And believe us, you and the people you’d trust your life with are among the few, or even the only ones to be able to speak the truth to power.
And that, my friend, may come as a revelation to you. You just wait till you see the American people paying attention to what you have to say. Who needs parades, accolades, speeches?
You’ll see the common people in the streets, the thousands of families living in cars with their children, the millions of young who have been told their future has been postponed and their dreams must be reset and tone down.
Only once you see their eyes opening with your words, when you feel that they’re listening to you with their hearts, you may make your decision to give up. We honestly doubt that you’d do that then.
Because as you get reacquainted with your country, and see the changes it went through while you were away, you’ll also realize the new allies you now have all across the land.
The Occupy Wall Street movement, for example, with its thousands of camps across the U.S. and now across the world too, they can’t wait to welcome you. By the way, that’s where you’ll meet a lot of your comrades.
You couldn’t come back at a better time. This nation is ready for your message. When you and your fellow warriors start to talk about the lack of jobs to support your families, you’ll be speaking in the name of several millions who need the same thing.

When you begin demanding housing, you’ll be demanding it for hundreds of thousands of families, who were lured in and then evicted off from their homes. They’re the ones you see living in cardboxes, across the street from their former houses, which now remain empty.
When you’d get to health care for everyone, and schools for your kids, and education for yourself, and the rule of the law for financial crimes, you’ll be talking, my friend, the lost tongue of justice and common decency we were almost forgetting.
For way too long, we’ve been ignoring people who actually do things for a living, who truly believe in ideals and go and volunteer to defend them, and who don’t want anything they haven’t earned, or even make a name for themselves based solely on their lifestyle.
That’s the gift the returning troops are bringing back to America. The sense of being proud for just having done the right thing, no excessive gratitude required. The realization that no one needs a special incentive to be a good citizen.
Some of these warriors may be missing limbs, and may require round the clock care, and their message may not even be that sunny and unequivocally hopeful.
One thing they won’t require, though, is credibility. We’ll need to create the conditions for them to feel truly welcome in the land they just handed back to us.
We’re certain we’ll do just that, because we so desperately need them, wounds, warts and all.
This post was supposed to be about rampant unemployment, homelessness, mental illness and despair among veterans. Halfway through it, though, we’ve realized somehow that such stats are around for anyone who needs to educate themselves. And they should.
But we’re more interested in looking ahead to the future of this country. At this moment, these very likely hurt warriors are still fresher than any other group with potential to work for change in the U.S, this side of the OWS protesters.
We’d never choose war or sending so many kids to the horrors of fighting in faraway lands. But now that they’re returning, we consider them pure gold, the very crème of our nation. They deserve to be cherished, supported and, above all, heard.

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