27 Jul

Homeless vets: Does anyone care?

A blog post from Henry Schuster, the producer behind this week’s “60 Minutes” report about an annual event for homeless vets in San Diego called “Stand Down”:

The costs of war aren’t always obvious or immediate. A few months after I got back from a trip to Afghanistan, I got a call from one of the Marines with whom we were embedded. He couldn’t sleep; he was drinking heavily; was afraid he was going to kill his dog and couldn’t stop arguing with his girlfriend; he’d moved out on her and was living in the barracks. Already on what they call “a bag o’meds,” a pharmaceutical cocktail prescribed by a Navy doctor, he was clearly suffering from PTSD – post-traumatic stress disorder. He didn’t want to ask anyone at his base for help because he thought it would count against him. I urged him, pleaded with him, to get help.

I know how this Marine’s story can end. I had heard similar stories dozens of times from others who had served in Iraq and Afghanistan. While most troops coming home are able to adjust, many suffer from PTSD or (TBI) traumatic brain injury. And they get caught in a downward spiral that can involve alcoholism, domestic violence and ultimately either suicide or homelessness. I heard it from soldiers at Fort Carson who had served in Iraq; I heard it from redeployed Marines while in Afghanistan. I met young homeless veterans in New York City and Sacramento; spoke to a former sailor who was bedding down for the night on Skid Row in Los Angeles while he nonchalantly shot up heroin.

From the time I started researching this “60 Minutes” story more than four years ago, I was told that we should go to Stand Down, an annual weekend for homeless veterans held every summer in San Diego. Finally, we did. Stand Down started because a couple of Vietnam-era veterans wanted to do something to help their own. That we need it more than ever more than two decades later is why we did this story.

-Henry Schuster, “60 Minutes” Producer

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