Last Friday morning, I stood in the doorway of an apartment in a section 8 housing complex. Packed boxes and trash bags filled with clothes were spread around the bedrooms and living room. The sheets had been removed from the mattresses of the beds and the furniture pulled away from the walls. The air conditioner was hardly succeeding at circulating the tobacco-tinged air that will slowly seep out of the carpet for years to come.
It was nearly 90 degrees inside the apartment and my clothes were already beginning to stick to my skin. The real task of moving everything out hadn’t even begun yet. The others had left a few minutes earlier to pick up a box truck, leaving me to have a look around. I really needed to use the bathroom, but when I lifted the toilet seat I knew that it had been out of operation for a good spell. In the kitchen, I opened the refrigerator. Nothing. I ran the sink and the water looked fine, but I had been told to avoid drinking from the tap.
In the smaller bedroom with the sun peaking through the shades I found myself staring at the floral mattress still on the bed frame. Like most old mattresses, years of use had left it stained where someone had once slept much of their life away. A blotchy yellowish to almost orange area had formed within the center.
Weeks earlier, police and EMTs had filled the room. A woman—somewhere in her 30s—had gone to sleep but didn’t come to when her roommate shook her and screamed. An Iraq veteran, fallen on hard times, was pronounced dead. Speculation is that she most likely overdosed by accident. Suffering from PTSD, she turned to self-medication when she was unable to get the adequate medical and psychiatric care that she needed. In fact, she had even wound up spending many nights on the street before being provided a bed to rest on by a friend. Just another story of an American vet that fell through the cracks of a ongoing problem. For some, the war doesn’t end on the battlefield. It follows them home. It follows them on the streets. It just goes on.
According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs:
In about 11-20% of Veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars (Operations Iraqi and Enduring Freedom), or in the range of 11-20 Veterans out of 100 who served in OEF/OIF. (Source)
By late March 2014, a staggering 1,892 veteran suicides had been recorded since the beginning of the year. That comes to approximately 22 deaths a day. (Source)
Consider making a donation to the Wounded Warrior Project to help put an end to someone’s war at home.