Homeless vets, the Iraq generation

There’s a little discount store I like to frequent where I get inexpensive health food. I crossed paths there today with some homeless young men. It was only a matter of time I thought, before the truly needy discovered this little store, known so far only by less needy bohemians.

They were Iraq vets, young men, hair grown long, vagabonds, not unfriendly, not talkative either except with each other. The conversation didn’t get far because the three reeked of lived-in clothes. You think you can bear it when first one approaches, but in enclosed quarters the smell pierces your nostrils and persists even hours later. I had to leave.

They were vets yes, in a war they wanted nothing to do with. It was fucked up. Don’t blame me, one of them said, it’s the assholes in charge. They had more colorful words for assholes.

We’re not supposed to blame you, I countered? Well I do. I blame Rumsfeld of course, and Bush & Co, but I blame the soldiers too. I blame them plenty. The soldiers marched off to war, got in our face with their militarism, had their families cheerlead for them. Soldiers killed a mess of Iraqis, innocent people by the vast majority. Now the soldiers come home and threaten us with their PTSD and reckless anger. You three are choosing to protest militarism by dropping out, but what about protesting more visibly? What you’re doing now is as selfish as your decision to go along in the first place. You are vicitms, my God, look at you, but you were also the perpetrators.

Tell me, how do we send a message to the other soldiers? How do we reach the soldiers still doing the deeds, torturing, murdering, raping the prostitutes, raiding the houses, smashing the tableware, kicking the children?

I say, incarcerate them. Let them know the judgment awaiting them at home. Make them consider making a moral decision to stop providing the muscle for Bush’s crimes of war. Sure Rumsfeld is guilty, but you’re all guilty. It’s a tough break, but you’re complicit whether you agreed or not. The boys walked out as I walked out.

The Vietnam War left a legacy of homeless vets to roam our streets and parks to this day. Obviously the next generation is already on that trail, stretching their government checks to cover food and drug, here and there. In Manitou it’s easy to live in the foothills. A bum can be social or anti-social. When the weather gets cold he will move down to the shelter.

In the meantime the homeless vets will reek up my favorite places with their slept-in combat boots and their mental ill-health not up to facing their consciences. They might even pose a threat to the neighborhood when they’re drunk, I can’t judge them on that in advance.

These boys didn’t seem un-bright, but they’re adding nothing to the community once again. If they were not the dreck of society before they went to war, they are now.

1 thought on “Homeless vets, the Iraq generation

  1. AvatarTony

    Good grief, Eric! It’s one extreme to call the US soldiers heroes when they most certainly aren’t. But it’s quite another to refer to them as ‘the dreck of society’. What they really are, if you have to label them as such, is a group of mainstream American callgirls. And callboys, more often than not. Or, to be less gender specific, maybe they might be better thought of as American callkillers. On call to certain fine folk, like Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfield.

    What exactly is a callkiller then? Well, that would usually be most likely a totally apolitical mercenary, who hires out to the US government (whether Democratic Party led, or Republican Party led) to kill foreigners, thinking he won’t get killed him or herself. Since the victims are to be foreigners who are totally less than human in American eyes, then the US soldier is not thrown into maximum security when he maims and kills others, but is hailed instead as a leader and hero. Plus he is given 10-30% off on all his purchases at local Colorado Springs stores.

    So I would say that callkillers are defintely not ‘dregs’ of our society at all, Eric. Many of them will go on to become politicans and other civic leaders.

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