The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

Jessica Lynch:
What future for vets?

Apr 14, 2003

Jessica Lynch is the 20-year-old private who was rescued by Special Operations troops.

When Lynch's story hit the news, her family reported that she had joined the army because she couldn't find a job. Like so many in her high school, job prospects were poor. The unemployment rate in the area was 15%. Lynch went into the army hoping to get veteran benefits so she could go to college, perhaps to become an elementary school teacher. In fact, now Lynch may be able to go to college, but not on veterans' benefits. The governor of West Virginia offered her a full scholarship to any state college in West Virginia, once she became a hero.

But what of other vets? Bush's current two-trillion-dollar budget includes significant cuts in programs for veterans, including college benefits. Other vets won't find money for college. They will return home to a bad economy, with fewer and fewer decent paying jobs. And if those other vets need special medical care, they will find that VA hospitals have cut back on doctors and services, with more vets denied care – and on top of that the current budget is cutting still more money from veterans' medical benefits.

After every war, vets had a higher rate of unemployment – because no employer wanted to take on the extra expense associated with all their service-related ailments.

After the Viet Nam war, many vets came back, without prospects and with bad memories of that war carried out against the Vietnamese people. The number of vets who committed suicide continued to mount – to the point that more vets died from suicide than the number of soldiers who died in the war.

After the first Gulf War, a number of vets had diseases which couldn't be put in any category and for which their doctors found no remedy and which the government even denied for years. The years since the war have been spent battling to get needed medical attention.

Now a new generation of young men and women will sooner or later come back from this war. They will discover the same thing other vets discovered before them. The government, which used them as cannon fodder, will toss them aside, along with the yellow ribbons. Some will discover as too many others did before them – that the one place this society readily leaves open to them is skid row.