BY NORBERT RUG
National Vietnam War Veterans Day is observed on Sunday, March 29, 2020. The Vietnam War Commemoration Honors U.S. Armed Forces personnel with who served in the military between November 1, 1955 to May 15, 1975, regardless of location of service. This totaled nine million Americans that served during that time.
The United States withdrew active troops from Vietnam in 1973 after the Paris Peace Accords were signed, however, U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War did not end until the fall of Saigon, April 30, 1975.
The Vietnam War took the lives of over 58,000 American service members and wounded in excess of 150,000. For the people who served during Vietnam and survived the indescribable horrors, coming home had its own kind of distress. Some veterans say that they were called “baby killers”, others were spit on. Vietnam veterans were met with absolutely none of the ceremony and received none of the benefits that were given other veterans. Because of this, I felt unappreciated and it took me several years to discuss my service during this difficult time in US history.
When I got out of the Navy in the early 70’s, I needed a home for my young family. After a bit of looking, I found a place for us. As a veteran, I was promised a VA guaranteed mortgage to buy a home. So I filled out all the appropriate paper work, attached a copy of my DD-214 and applied for one. Shortly thereafter I received a nice letter confirming that due to my service, and honorable discharge, I was eligible for the VA mortgage.
After a bit more time, I received a letter from the VA that said the house I was interested in was worth what I was going to pay. Whoo Hoo, second hurtle cleared. A week later I opened my mail and read that my VA loan was rejected. That’s all it said. No explanation why.
So I called the VA to ask just what the heck (not the word I used) was going on. They looked up my file and told me I hadn’t been at my present job for 12 months. I very politely replied (not so politely) that I had just gotten out of the service a few months ago and had a job within a week of getting home. I told them they can shove their program where the sun don’t shine.
For many veterans, the impact of the war carried over to civilian life. Approximately one third of veterans said that they had difficulty paying their bills shortly after leaving the service and around thirty percent say they had received unemployment compensation during the transition. Twenty percent said that they struggled with alcohol or substance abuse shortly after their discharge.
A few years after I tried to get a mortgage, my daughter was having a medical problem. The doctors thought she had bone cancer in her leg. Unfortunately, I was between jobs and had no medical insurance at the time. Once again I reached out to the VA and explained my situation. Their answer was not quite what I had wanted. It boiled down to the fact that I was S.O.L. (Sorry, Out of Luck, what did you think I meant?)
Every year, the U.S. military enlists around 175,000 young Americans and they promise to take care of those who serve. Today, this promise is upheld in the moral code of each branch of the service. Members of the U.S. Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, and Coast Guard pledge to never leave a fallen comrade behind.
After their discharge, the Department of Veterans Affairs is charged with fulfilling this very same promise on behalf of a grateful nation. The problem, however, is that many veterans have difficulty accessing these programs. The Department of Veterans Affairs has estimated that 107,000 veterans are homeless in the United States every night. In my opinion, just one homeless veteran is too many.
At one time, I needed a medical device due to my having cancer. I read that the VA supplied these to veterans, so I called them. I asked the person who answered the phone if they did in fact supply these. An easy question that required an easy answer, yes or no. This person said they could not tell me over the phone but if I would fill out some paperwork that they would send me, they could give me an answer. When the paperwork arrived, there were pages of questions to answer. I also wanted a copy of my DD-214, just to get an answer to my question. All I needed was a simple answer.
We owe veterans more than just a handshake and a slap on the back. Congress and the next administration needs to fix the existing VA system and take the necessary steps to make sure that our U.S. military veterans receive the support and care that they deserve
I think it is time for the U.S. government to honor the promise they made to our veterans. As a veteran, I fulfilled my side of the contract and I think it is their turn to keep theirs… or give me back my four years.
Norb is a proud navy veteran. Who chased Russian subs during his tour of duty.