Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Vietnam Vet, Homeless, Please Help, God Bless

These words evoke the image of a scraggly, white, unshaven man about my age walking up and down the lines of cars waiting at a light with a container in his hand for collecting money. These are the boys of my generation that got sucked up into the Vietnam War, to return as broken specimens of humanity who have since failed at life.

I have never given cash to people like this, thinking that it would only be intended to supply some nasty habit like drinking or smoking or drugs. Instead I avert my eyes and hope the light changes soon so I don’t have to feel so guilty for my lack of response. I start feeling so fortunate to be married to someone who didn’t have to serve and to have children who will (hopefully) never have to serve. Then I think how far our society has come from the days when the best and the brightest wore military uniforms and were greeted with tickertape parades upon their heroic return.

These poor broken men didn’t ask for a war that noone wanted. They didn’t ask to come back feeling ashamed for having served and angry for having their boyhood spunk sucked out of them in a godforsaken jungle while they witnessed and sometimes participated in untold atrocities. Today their bodies are not dead but they have that distant stare of the dead.

I think I would like to connect with just one of these men and try to make a difference in his life. I don’t want to do it by putting $5 in his outstretched cup, but rather by offering him some way to regain just a small piece of his pride. I need to have a better understanding of what his life is really like, what circumstances forced him into homelessness. Is this just another an idealistic idea or something that is really possible?

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