Patricia Nell Warren

"When I Came Home" -- TV film review

Filed By Patricia Nell Warren | March 09, 2009 6:30 PM | comments

Filed in: Entertainment, Politics
Tags: broken system, Don't Ask Don't Tell, LGBT homeless, LGBT veterans, military, VA, Veterans Administration

This is one of those documentary films that wins major film-festival awards and rave reviews from major magazines...but you won't see it aired on network TV. Why? Because the U.S. government and many Americans simply don't want to deal with the subject. In this case, it's the national shame of 2 million homeless war veterans on the street. Conservatives who hype our foreign wars should be leading the charge to care for our veterans when they come home from those wars. But all too often the cons are the ones who don't get it -- like wingnut Bill O'Reilly, who recently was targeted by homeless vet activists because of his mindless, heartless comments on this subject.

And this film should be of burning interest to liberals and LGBT people as well, even those who oppose our military presence in Afghanistan and Iraq. So read on after the jump.

The 70-minute film follows the struggles of a young black vet suffering from PTSD, who lives in his car in Brooklyn and tries to maintain fragile ties with a small child, a wife and family. He is constantly told that there is a shelter system for him to go into. From there (he's told) he can work his way into the pipeline of VA services.

But he -- and other veterans interviewed -- keeps making the point that the system isn't working for veterans. The VA is a huge unresponsive bureaucracy, constantly tangled in its own paperwork, letting a lot of these men and women fall through the cracks -- especially those with PTSD and the traumatic head injuries that are pecular to this war.

Some of our own are out there too -- victims of DADT, living under bridges now. When I was writing "Harlan's Race" in the early 1990s, I interviewed gay Vietnam vets who had been homeless. Even liberals who oppose the Iraqi War should want our government to do a 180-degree turn on this problem. The enormity of it is something that affects us all, whether we agree with, or disagree with, the wars that our government leaps into. Callousness towards returning soldiers feeds a national climate of callousness towards other groups in need. A nation that can subject its own soldiers to criminal mistreatment, after they've borne the battle, has no problem allowing hate crimes to decimate minorities in the U.S.

Such a country has no business parading itself as a country that "cares about freedom."

What will our country finally fix this fatally broken system, that makes it so hard for combat soldiers to re-enter civilian life? We've known about it for half a century...since the Vietnam War. We've also known about the recruiting practices that rely heavily on African Americans and Latinos from low-income families to be the cannon fodder out there. The fact is, many Americans don't care about homeless vets because many of them have black and brown skins.

As a member of the Vietnam generation, with school buddies and friends of mine who came back from that war maimed in body and spirit, I opposed that war -- but I have never understood our schizoid national attitude towards the troops, and wonder how long it will take for it to change.

President Obama needs to shake up the VA and jump-start some huge changes in this national disgrace of ours.

Look for this important film on Link TV, if you have Dish Network or DirectTV. Or possibly you'll find it on Time Warner cable, which is affiliated with Dish and DirectTV. Or you can order a DVD through the links below.

Home page for the film

Link TV schedule of upcoming showings

If you can't find the film to screen on your TV, then read the related Aaron Glantz book, The War Comes Home. Glantz is a war correspondent who interviewed hundreds of homeless veterans.


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This is a down right dirty shame that we treat our Vets in such a disgusting manner.

As always Patricia, you have hit another shameless topic out of the ball park.

Thanks Patricia for highlighting this issue. The VA isn't alone in the snarl of paperwork and regulations. The active duty branches are complicit in their own way. They are slow to diagnose brain injury and traumatic stress. A soldier discharged with a misdiagnoses of personality disorder that in reality is PTSD never even gets to the VA.

As you say, it is shameful.

Bill Perdue Bill Perdue | March 10, 2009 7:05 AM

Thanks for posting this.

I had no idea there were so many veterans on the streets. I guess that explains the 500% jump in veteran suicide rates. http://www.alternet.org/waroniraq/98315/

Whoever used the term cannon fodder wasn't kidding, but now it seems that it never stops, even if you make it out alive.

The right wingers will deny it all and wrap them selves in a flag calling the GI and civilian antiwar movements disgusting, treasonous and un-Uhmherikan.

The only way to support the troops is to force Obama and both parties to withdraw all US military, mercenary and security forces in the Mediterranean region and South Asia to home bases permanently. Not in a few years, now. And put the VA under the control of veterans.

You can start by building and attending the demonstrations planned for Saturday march 21st. https://www.natassembly.org/Home_Page.html

Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | March 10, 2009 8:28 AM

Patricia, to avoid losing my mind in South Florida I took employment in an art gallery chain. One store was in a mall with a significant minority population. the other was very upscale and Waspy. The military recruiters came to the mall where the poorly off minority kids hung out, but were never seen espousing the virtues of "Duty, Honor and Service" to the affluent late teens of the very rich. They knew these kids had options. We have an military formed from those who can do no better than serve because of the societal, structural and financial limitations on obtaining an education, hence options.

Waive a $40,000.00 potential signing bonus (source: Military.com) in front of a 17 year old who has options of flipping burgers or changing tires and it is understandable that they would try for the brass ring. The trouble with this is that with the sign on bonus comes a dilution of the sense of responsibility on the back end.

Americans love to send around pictures of flag draped coffins discussing the patriotism of those who have died when we should be talking about how fortunate we are for those who have lived and treat them with similar respect.

In my opinion, the Bush policy of not allowing the media to photograph returning coffins was related to a policy of ignoring the needs of veterans. Hopefully Obama's reversal of that media policy will be the beginning of the government's change of heart on caring for vets.

and then there are Gays who are denied VA benefits....