The runway rushed up at him as he felt the wheels touch down
He stood out on the blacktop and took a taxi into town
He got out down on Main Street and went into a local bar
He bought a drink and found a seat in a corner off in the dark
Well she called up her mama to make sure the kids were out of the house
She checked herself out in the dining room mirror
And undid an extra button on her blouse
He felt her lying next to him, the clock said 4 am
He was staring at the ceiling
He couldn’t move his hands
Oh mama mama mama come quick
I’ve got the shakes and I’m gonna be sick
Throw your arms around me in the cold dark night
Hey now mama don’t shut out the light
-Bruce Springsteen, “Shut Out the Light” © ASCAP 490998184
Loneliness, fear, isolation, guilt…the post-Vietnam years weren’t kind to our veterans. Springsteen and others wrote about the struggles military families faced as tours of duty ended and the enlisted were once again statewide.
Hundreds of thousands of veterans returned to the States, without jobs, without coping skills and without hope.
Sound familiar? As our men and women return home from Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere, it can seem like things haven’t changed very much. A dismal economy; an overwhelmed and underfunded Veterans’ Administration; and an increasingly polarized citizenry greet our veterans, many of whom return as strangers to their families, communities and workplaces.
Since Vietnam, we’ve learned that the trauma of war can manifest as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, alcoholism, drug and domestic abuse and depression. Joblessness, homelessness and criminal behavior often follow. Mental illness is rampant, and we need look no further than last year’s horrific kidnapping and murder of a Wilmington woman to know that untreated mental illness is a danger to us all.
The good news is that the First State is increasingly focused on improving conditions and providing support services for our veterans, who number one out of every 12 Delaware residents, according to U.S. Census figures.
Sunday’s News Journal chronicled the state’s new Veterans Treatment Court, which handles cases involving veterans who have committed minor felonies. Modeled on a system developed in Buffalo, eligible veterans enroll in a treatment program that includes counseling, rehabilitation and mentoring in an effort to prevent recidivism. Graduates of the program may see the charges against them dismissed or terms of probation reduced, with continued counseling mandated post-graduation.
Also in the news recently was the fifth anniversary of the Delaware Veterans Home. This highly-rated facility houses more than 100 individuals from across the state and offers skilled and intermediate care, along with a dementia unit. The Veterans Home recently added a new wing and relies on both staff and volunteers to support its residents.
And for the thousands of veterans looking for work, Delaware’s congressional delegation hosted several job fairs around the state this spring. Employers, academic institutions and support organizations met with attendees, providing resources, connections and hope.
Delaware, along with the rest of the country, faces an uphill battle as thousands of soldiers return home in the coming months. Many have served multiple tours, forcing their families to build a life without them.
As was their duty to serve our country, it is now our duty to provide for those who served. Let Delaware be the example for the rest of our nation to follow.