This Veterans Day, we are each thinking of the veterans who have given so much to our great state and great nation. Unfortunately, too many veterans face poverty and food insecurity. Lavinia Jackson, a veteran advocate and poet based out of the Triad, issues this important reminder of difficult journey faced by many veterans and of our deep responsibility to serve those who served us.
Veterans, no matter the branch, all begin with basic training. We take an oath and spend weeks learning skills. More than road marches and cadences, we learn to depend. We expect order. We aren’t as close to poverty as we used to be. Direct deposit, twice a month, kept hunger at bay. We were given food and housing allowances, actual money to offset the cost of living. We had access to good food, on bases where we were stationed. We could grocery shop tax free. No matter if you served 2 years or 20, these perks went a long way. When you don’t think about “paying” for housing or food, you can truly focus on your job.
When you are discharged, you leave that access and support behind. Nobody tells you where to live, within your budget, or how to shop in a normal grocery store. You don’t have any allowances. Everything comes out of your paycheck. Poverty is something you worked hard to escape. If the jobs aren’t lined up with your training, you are stuck working in spaces where you are overqualified and underpaid. That’s depressing.
Veterans have a different method of dealing with challenges like “depression” or “hunger”. We keep it moving. We fall back on training, find the mission, and disregard self-care. We navigate differently. We misunderstand. Chain of Command only works when we are on the inside. We don’t get why. We just need it fixed.
We are used to access. We traded our lives for the semblance of security. There’s no reason we should road march, across town, for a bag of food. It’s not pride or arrogance. It’s a broken promise. Being a veteran is supposed to give us a leg up, better access. At the very least, we should have a job comparable with the wages we left. That doesn’t always happen. Our service doesn’t feed us the way it used to. It doesn’t provide the transportation. It doesn’t clothe us. It becomes a compounded nightmare. PTSD is not included.
We are hungry. We are poor. Even at 100% disability, a Veteran will only make $32,000/year. Can a person live off that? Yes. There are more and more disabled Vets who cannot work and have families. Tell me how far you can stretch that. Tell me what kinda training prepared you to be poor and hungry again?