Regularly, I get calls from the media asking if I have any vets of Iraq or Afghanistan sleeping outside yet, homeless. I tell them to call me in seven years. There's a pause, then a "why?" I tell them it's not that our Marines, soldiers, airmen, sailors and midshipmen who come back pressed and with a crisp haircut immediately move to a homeless shelter. While most will come back to love and purpose and maybe even a parade, others return to begin a new battle. First, there's a breakup in their marriage. Then, they live with family if they can. Then, our heroes will stay with friends. After they've overstayed their welcome, they'll become residents of pay-by-the-week motels. Finally, we see them after they had to give up the car in which they slept. Now they are homeless. When I ask the media if they want to talk to homeless vets who served in the Persian Gulf, Vietnam, Korea or the Second World War; they're not particularly interested, probably because no one else is. Seven years from now, when we are in North Korea or who can imagine where, they might come calling for the homeless vet news story of the day; I'll offer an Iraq or Afghanistan vet and they'll decline. Time passes quicker than we realize, though, and now we've been at war seven years and guess what? Last week, I had a homeless vet in my office who has done two tours in Iraq and is sleeping under a bridge in Minneapolis. Don't call me, though; he and his fellow bums or heroes find their participation in our consumption of the news of the day the least of their concerns.
MONICA NILSSON, MINNEAPOLIS; DIRECTOR OF STREET OUTREACH, ST. STEPHEN'S HUMAN SERVICES