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The Optimistic Futurist: Thanking our Veterans takes more than parades and prayer
by Francis P.
Koster Ed. D.
This Thanksgiving holiday will find many
families gathering around a shared meal, giving thanks, including thanks to the
members of the military for keeping us safe.
And that will be that.
It isn't enough. There is more to be done.
Charlotte, North Carolina is one a few
communities nationally that has an organization that turned a spotlight on the issue
of how we as a nation say thanks, and has successfully done something about it.
Tommy Norman, a Charlotte area Vietnam era
veteran, became aware of the current barriers faced by newly returning vets
when he tried to help a newly returned wounded warrior assume a civilian
lifestyle. Even from the vantage point
of a mature successful civilian entrepreneur and civic leader he saw the path
forward these days was beyond confusing.
47% of those returning vets who were surveyed by the Pew Research center
rated their return to civilian life as "difficult".
He stepped up and founded an effort that
became The Charlotte Bridge Home which provides a range of support to returning
The more the staff worked with veterans,
the more they became convinced improvement in re-entry support was needed on a
national level. The Charlotte Bridge Home
facilitated a comprehensive study of the situation and discovered some stunning
Over 2.5 million Americans served in
uniform in either Iraq or Afghanistan.
A third of them were deployed more than once, and 400,000 were deployed
three or more times. The casualty rate
is high. Of the2.5 million who served
there, 1.6 million have been discharged.
Of those discharged, 670,000 have qualified for some level of disability
- about 2 out of every 5!
There are over 55,000 veterans - one in
13 adults- living in Mecklenburg County, where Charlotte is located. More than you
would think are young, and about one- third of them served in Iraq or Afghanistan. One in five homeless people in the Charlotte
area are veterans. One in five younger
vets is female - and these female vets are the fastest growing segment of the
homeless population. Unemployment rate
among Charlotte area veterans is one and a half times that of non-veterans.
While programs to assist veteran do
exist, getting register for them can be painfully slow due insufficient staff
at the Veterans Administration offices.
As of November 25, 2013 the Veterans Administration reported that nationally
696,000 such applications are "pending" and 390,000 of those were 4
months old or older. In North Carolina
where the backlog is in the range of 9-10 months. This
situation was made worse by the October 2013 shutdown of the government for 16
According to the Department of Defense, almost
one-third of the returning vets examined were diagnosed as having post-traumatic
stress syndrome (PTSD) because these recent wars have our troops living among
hostile people who literally surround them and attempt to inflict injury in
random constant attacks. The impacts of PTSD can be reduced if proper care is
given but most vets do not know of their options, and need a hand to get the
help they deserve.
The Charlotte Bridge Home staff who took
up the challenge to make our society better not only reached out and provided
service to the vets and their families, they hosted an area wide gathering to identify holes in the array of existing
services, improve coordination, and increase impact - to stunning results. Over 400 interested people show up,
including those representing 26 military and government agencies, 25 not for
profit organizations and 66 companies. Working
together, a plan filled with locally implementable and replicable solutions to our
national problem was developed.
The leadership of the Charlotte Bridge
Home has recognized that the local problem/opportunity they are working on
exists in other communities all across the United States. They are working hard to make both the
problem and the solution available to other communities. That is a kind of patriotism we can all be
So do more than bow your head at
Thanksgiving. Take one step forward.
To see the sources of facts
used in this article, and learn of other successful money and life saving
programs that can be implemented locally to create a better future for our
country, go to www.TheOptimisticFuturist.org
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