‘Support the troops’ must be more than a slogan

USF has repeatedly made it evident that it fully supports the education of military personnel. Outside of USF, the yellow “support our troops” decals that adorn many cars convey the same sentiment. But support during training and while actively serving is not enough, as an increasing number of veterans also desperately need help. A recent study made this painfully evident: Nearly one-third of America’s homeless are veterans.

According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs the percentage of homeless veterans is much higher than the average population. Speaking to the Associated Press, a VA spokesperson said that West Virginia has the highest number of veterans, comprising 13 percent of adult males in the general population. Everywhere else the percentage is much lower. This makes the high ratio of veterans among the homeless even more worrisome.

The problem likely has to do with the safety nets once military personnel retire. In theory, veterans hospitals are supposed to help, but in the last several years an increasing number of such hospitals were closed due to budget cuts while practically all of them face an equally dire shortage of funding.

To pass such cuts during a time of war is unconscionable. Over 1,500 U.S. troops have died in Iraq, and regrettably the death of more seems all but unavoidable. But the number of wounded is even more shocking. Numbers are murky but are estimated to be upward of 11,000. These numbers only include physical wounds and discount psychological traumas caused by the enormous stress soldiers are subjected to on a daily basis.

The Department of Defense is well aware of this shortcoming and is trying their best to help personnel stationed abroad. A recent edition of CBS’s 60 Minutes, for example, followed a group of military psychiatrists who make “house calls” on the frontlines.

Such programs definitely help, but unless such measures are also taken once their boots are safely back on American soil, many veterans will remain largely abandoned.

Meanwhile, politicians on both sides of the aisle profess their support for the troops. But unless budgets are approved and not just talked about such oratory flag waving is little more than a ploy to be well received among voters.

The government is very aware of how much troops cost even after they finish their tour of duty. Recently a case brought forth by troops that served during the first Gulf War asking for damages was dismissed. The main reason was that the military was afraid it would open the door to personnel returning from Iraq doing the same, a financial burden they are not prepared to take on.

The uncomfortable truth is that while military spending keeps increasing, individual soldiers and other personnel often can barely make ends meet.