Fighting Crazed Veteran Stories

My Afghanistan and Iraq veteran buddies who write the official Veterans Affairs blog continue to fight a rear guard battle against continued vilification of veterans in the media, something I experienced when I returned home from service with the Marine Corps in Vietnam.

Kate Hoit, who served with the Army in Iraq in 2004 to 2005, has an excellent post today, "The 'Dangerous' Veteran: An Inaccurate Media Narrative Takes Hold," which shows that whacko veteran stories have real world consequences.

Hoit takes a look at the controversy that has erupted in San Diego over plans to open a 40 bed residential facility for veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder and mild traumatic brain injury near an elementary school in that city's upscale Old Town neighborhood, a 15 minute walk from the only institution of higher learning I ever graduated from, the Marine Corps Recruit Depot.

As the Sacramento Bee reported, Old Town residents argue such a facility has no place in their neighborhood, which is not zoned for it.

This is an odd sort of stand for a city that seems to have no problem with zoning for aircraft carriers and large amphibious ships and their crews, which pump millions of dollars into the local economy annually.

As Hoit put it, "This is an example where some in a community are simply not comfortable with what they view as damaged and potentially unstable veterans being near a school. Of course, this attitude doesn't take place in a vacuum, and it wasn't formed recently."

She added, "There is a reason people have such views of those who once protected them." She then went on to cite news articles such as a January USA Today piece that refers to recent combat vets as "ticking time bombs." The same month, CNN ran an article whose headline blared "Experts: Vets' PTSD, violence a growing problem."

Stories like this and others, Hoit wrote, saddle veterans with a real burden as they doff their uniforms and re-enter civilian life. "[C]ollege admission offices, future employers, and those alike can peg today's veterans as 'running amok' with the tendency to burst into 'sudden rages' -- quietly widening the divide further between veterans and civilians," Hoit noted.

And, who wants vets running amok in Old Town San Diego?