Way back in World War II, when my father was in the Army, everybody knew somebody in the military. More than half of eligible males were in uniform. During the Vietnam War, despite the exemptions to the draft, more than three million young men served in Southeast Asia. Today, however, after eleven years of war and with the end only sort of in sight, less than one percent of Americans are in the service, largely because we keep sending the same men and women back “over there” again and again and again. Our veterans have gotten very, very good at what they do, but they and their hard-stressed families are increasingly separated from mainstream America. So how do we bridge the gap?
One man, Paul Gleason, has an answer: one handwritten letter at a time. The retired history teacher, not a veteran himself, started writing soldiers in 1965 when one of his students joined the Army and has kept at it ever since: more than 10,000 letters over almost 50 years. Some go to friends he’s made — though sometimes never met — and corresponds with weekly. Since his retirement, he’s camped out at a side table in a local Burger King and cranked out about three letters a day, totaling about 15 handwritten pages. He’s currently corresponding with 10 people, from a young Marine to the widow of a decorated Green Beret who fought in Vietnam. (Click here to watch an NBC video interview with Gleasonand his young Marine Corps pen pal; click here to read a Springfield State Journal-Register profile with more details). Keep reading →
NEW YORK (CNNMoney) — More veterans are coming back from war and getting back to work in the civilian job force, thanks to efforts by both employers and the government, as well as the improving economy. Keep reading →
July 4, 2010, was a bad day for Tyler Southern. He dreamed he was with his older brothers, playing sandlot football, running and laughing, horsing around just like they used to when they were together as kids in Jacksonville, Fla.
In his dream, he was whole again. Keep reading →
Americans are understandably weary of our nation’s longest war. But even when the last troops come home from Afghanistan – which they won’t for at least three years – their battles won’t be over, and they’ll still need our support. Just as there are almost three million World War II veterans still alive today, we will be dealing with veterans of Afghanistan and Iraq well into the 2080s.
Some of our most horribly injured veterans will need help for the rest of their lives just getting through the day. Hundreds of thousands more will need treatment for what one landmark study called the “invisible wounds” of depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, and brain damage from the concussion of roadside bombs. Simply spending months in a war zone has strained the body, mind, and relationships of every one of the more than two million men and women deployed since 9/11. And it doesn’t stop with them: Because today’s military is mostly married, with almost as many dependents as troops, the effects of this war will echo not just through the lifetimes of those who fought it but through the lifetimes of their children. Keep reading →