There's More like Me coming back every day: the new rising population of homeless people; Iraqi war veterans

POOR correspondent - Posted on 25 June 2010

Laurence Ashton and Tiny/PNN
Saturday, December 18, 2004

"Hey gurrrl , wassup in Oaktown these days?" He was standing there, still in uniform, the stain of bloodshed and too many tears still clinging to his smooth chocolate face.

" My name is corporal James, Red James, they called me Red cause I was always covered in blood in the killing fields of…" and then his deep voice trailed off, you knew in that second that he was actually there, inside the dust, the non-stop sand storms, and the blinding glare of deadly firefights floating in slow motion through the Iraqi desert.

Corporal James, a 26 year old African Descendent man who joined the army in 2002 to "get his poor self some financial support" as he put it, was born and raised in Kern county, just outside of Fresno. Corporal James was homeless in Oakland today.

Last week, slipped in between stories about how great this years "capitalistmas" (my new title for the corporate driven Amerikkan Christmas) was a tiny 30 second story on corporate media (CNN, ABC radio) about how the newest population of homeless people in Alameda’s shelters are Iraqi war veterans. Upon hearing this PNN youth in the media staff writer Laurence Ashton whose own father is a homeless, mentally ill, African Descendent Vietnam vet, became ballistic, "I told you, what did I tell you," he screamed through the phone as we were both looking at the TV simultaneously, "more folks are gonna come back messed up from this Bush sh..t war than even from Vietnam. They messing folks up in new and different ways.. " and then Laurence became quiet as he often does when he thinks of his father.

Based on a recent study conducted by the Army shows that about one in six soldiers in Iraq report symptoms of major depression, serious anxiety or post-traumatic stress disorder, a proportion that some experts believe could eventually climb to one in three, the rate ultimately found in Vietnam veterans.

Because about one million American troops have served so far in the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to Pentagon figures, some experts predict that the number eventually requiring mental health treatment could exceed 100,000.

Laurence was supposed to do this story but he had his own form of mental breakdown in the process of writing it cause it was just too hard for him, so he set up a meeting between me and Corporal James, who he already hooked up with in his street research/outreach. Corporal James then hooked us up with another Iraq vet that he knew, "Mr. Lincoln", he called himself, refusing to give us his real name for fear of the shame it might bring his family.

Whenever PNN staff encounter this kind of misplaced self-loathing caused because folks like Mr. Lincoln has successfully been brainwashed by the dominant capitlist culture about what it means to be "without a home" in a society that looks down on you if you are poor, we try our best to raise their awareness and give them some consciousness about who is promoting that shame in the first place. "Yea, we were drinking a lot and taking all kinds of drugs over there, but one of the worst ones that truly messes up your mind is Crystal Meth, and that’s really easy to get, so yea a lot of us aren’t dealing with a full deck of cards you could say"

"I’m homeless cause I came back with a dishonorable discharge, I was poor before I went and poorer when I came back and so many crazy thoughts running through my head that I really can’t think straight", Corporal James paused for moment to rub his head like he was joggin his mind for where to start, "I couldn’t stay with my family, they all poor too, one of them was evicted from their section 8 apartment and is in a shelter too"

"There's a train coming that's packed with people who are going to need help for the next 35 years," said Stephen L. Robinson, a 20-year Army veteran who is now the executive director of the National Gulf War Resource Center, an advocacy group. Mr. Robinson wrote a report in September on the psychological toll of the war for the Center for American Progress, a Washington research group.

"I have a very strong sense that the mental health consequences are going to be the medical story of this war," said Dr. Stephen C. Joseph, who served as the assistant secretary of defense for health affairs from 1994 to 1997.

"My mind jus aint strong enough to fight these inner demons, I got some help when I was in the army but now that I am out I am on a wait list for some counseling," Corporal James concluded with a sigh

"My wife got evicted from her apartment in the Bayview, and then when we got together, I just went crazy, I am not safe to be around anyone anymore, I’m useless to everyone" Mr. Lincoln spit his last sentence out with disgust.

What was sold to the Amerikkan people as a "short intervention" i.e., less time , more weapons and faster death of innocent Iraqi people by the current white supremacist corporation squatting illegally in the White House was immediately transformed into a full scale, AmeriKkan colonization attack with poor, brainwashed American troops as the physical and emotional canon fodder thrown into sustained close-quarters combat on a scale not seen since the Vietnam War.

And its particularly odd to me as a poverty justice organizer and formerly homeless activist myself that as the Bush/cheney Corporation attempts to dismantle the entire HUD budget and more specifically the Section 8 program, Mental Health services and homeless services budgets in general, that through their evil Kolinization efforts they actually cause hundreds of thousands more people to need those services

Psychiatrists say the kind of fighting seen in the recent Kolinizing of Falluja - urban settings with unlimited hiding places; the impossibility of telling friend from foe; the knowledge that every stretch of road may conceal an explosive device is tailored to produce the adrenaline-gone-haywire reactions that leave lasting emotional scars.

" I don't know where I belong or what I am gonna do, and there's more like me coming back everyday…." Corporal James shook his head again and looked up into the fading afternoon sun above the Downtown Oakland homeless shelter.



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