Many unwanted heroes defend our nation and fight its wars—right or wrong. When America’s leaders declare wars based on lies (for example: Vietnam and Iraq) or the truth (World War I, II, Afghanistan and Korea), unwanted heroes do the fighting and pay the price.
On the side of a bus at the VA medical clinic that I go to, it says, “All gave some; some gave all.” I have a credit card sized VA Department of Veterans Affairs ID card. It says below my photo: “Service Connected.” That means I have a disability connected to my service in Vietnam in 1966 when I was serving in the US Marines.
What is the price many unwanted heroes pay for trusting their leaders?
This post has the same title of a novel that was recently released, and I had the privilege of editing Unwanted Heroes by Alon Shalev.
In Unwanted Heroes, Shalev brings together a long suffering, battle weary Chinese American Vietnam veteran suffering from the trauma of PTSD and an idealistic and somewhat pretentious young Englishmen, who both share a love for San Francisco, coffee and wine.
Alon Shalev, the author, grew up in London, and has been a political activist since his early teens. He strives through his writing to highlight social and political injustice and to inspire action for change.
Moving to Israel, he helped establish a kibbutz where he lived for 20 years and served in the Israeli army.
Shalev then moved to the San Francisco Bay area and fell hopelessly in love with this unique city. Being new to the US, however, he was shocked to see so many war veterans on the streets. He regularly volunteers at initiatives such as Project Homeless Connect and the San Francisco Food Bank where he meets and talks with war veterans. These experiences lend authenticity to the novel.
In fact, according to NIH (the National Institute of Health) Medline Plus, “PTSD affects about 7.7 million American adults” … and “members of the military exposed to war/combat and other groups at high risk for trauma exposure are at risk for developing PTSD.
“Among veterans returning from the current wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, PTSD and mild to moderate traumatic brain injury (TBI) are often linked and their symptoms may overlap. Blast waves from explosions can cause TBI, rattling the brain inside the skull.
“The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs estimates that PTSD afflicts almost 31% of Vietnam veterans; as many as 10% of Gulf War (Desert Storm) veterans; 11% of veterans of the war in Afghanistan, and 20% of Iraqi war veterans.”
NIH says, “PTSD is often accompanied by depression, substance abuse, or other anxiety disorders.”
In addition, “between 529,000 and 840,000 veterans are homeless at some time during the year, and on any given night, more than 300,000 veterans are living on the streets or in shelters in the US. … About 33% of homeless males in the US are veterans and veterans are twice as likely as other Americans to become chronically homeless. One of the primary causes of homelessness among veterans is combat-related mental health issues and disability.
The incident of PTSD and suicide rates among veterans is also climbing and 45% of homeless veterans suffer from mental illness including PTSD. Source: Veterans Inc.org
The New York Times reported, “Suicide rates of military personnel and combat veterans have risen sharply since 2005, as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan intensified. Recently, the Pentagon established a Defense Suicide Prevention Office.”
“The CDC Vietnam Experience Study Mortality Assessment showed that during the first 5 years after discharge, deaths from suicide were 1.7 times more likely among Vietnam veterans than non-Vietnam veterans. …
Why? “The average infantryman in the South Pacific during World War II saw about 40 days of combat in four years. The average infantryman in Vietnam saw about 240 days of combat in one year thanks to the mobility of the helicopter.” Source: History.com – Statistics about the Vietnam War
I did not seek help for my PTSD for thirty-eight years, because I did not know the VA offered counseling.
Discover A Prisoner of War for Life
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