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.