BLACK VETERANS SHOULD NOT HAVE TO FACE WAR ABROAD AND AT HOME

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Veterans Day, originally called Armistice Day, was recently celebrated in America. This is one of the days set aside to honor men and women who have served in the armed forces. According to an online article at History.com, “Veterans Day is a U.S. legal holiday dedicated to American veterans of all wars, and Veterans Day 2019 occurred on Monday, November 11. In 1918, on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, an armistice, or temporary cessation of hostilities, was declared between the Allied nations and Germany in World War I, then known as “the Great War.” Thus we have the tradition of November 11 designated as that special day for veterans.

African American veterans are a special subset of veterans in the United States. They have fought in every war in which the U.S. has been engaged. Arguably, they have not received their just due for laying their lives on the line for their country. According to a United States Department of Veteran’s Affairs report released in 2017 titled Profile of Veterans in Poverty: 2017, “A high percentage of American Indian or Alaska Native veteran male and Black or African American female veterans were in poverty.” Furthermore, an online article in Ebony titled Homeless Black Vets: the Fight After the War by Chris Williams, “Fifty-six percent of all homeless veterans are African American or Hispanic, with Blacks constituting thirty-four percent of the total number of homeless veterans. These men and women have served in wars ranging from World War II until the present wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, with the majority having served in the Vietnam War, which accounts for about half of the homeless veterans in the United States. Veterans experience homelessness at a vastly superior rate than their non-veteran counterparts, but the overwhelming disparity of African Americans to their fellow countrymen is troublesome.”

The foregoing is problematic. It would seem that those who go off into wars started by oligarchs as they play their global chess games would be compensated adequately for their sacrifice. In other words, there should be no such thing as a homeless veteran. In fact, there should be no such thing as a hungry vet. Moreover, any veteran who desires a higher education should be able to automatically access it. In this regard, there are programs in place, but they are underutilized for a number of reasons. According to a Syracuse University article Empty Promise: Black American Veterans and the New GI Bill, “The 2008 GI Bill offers college funds for veterans. Yet Black male vets are not taking advantage of these benefits.” The article goes on to identify some of those barriers and to provide suggestions as to how they can be removed. For example, the DoD (Department of Defense) and the VA (Veterans Administration) might partner together to better ensure that African American service members are fully aware of their GI Bill benefits and know how to utilize the benefits before they are discharged.

Veterans are also adversely impacted by mental health concerns. War is not fun; vets often see their comrades shot down in front of them, and many suffer what has been called Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). This can hinder their ability to secure employment, and some have turned to self-medicating as a result of their problems. According to the National Coalition of Homeless Veterans, on any given night, nearly 50,000 veterans are homeless and roughly 40 percent of those homeless veterans are African American or Hispanic.

The bottom line is that African American men and women who have served in the U.S. armed forces suffer double jeopardy: they are faced with violent threats to their health and well-being abroad, and when they come home they face some of the same violence on urban streets from the police, gangbangers, and from adverse economic conditions. There are various organizations that exist to help mitigate these circumstances but, considering the dire straits that many returning vets face, everything should be done to ensure that they receive optimal care. It might even be feasible to ensure that they receive automatic health care for life and whatever else they need. Black veterans, in particular, should not have to be subjected to war abroad and at home. Period. A Luta Continua.

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