A Veterans Tale
He went to Los Angeles, where he became homeless, sleeping in his car and staying with friends. Then, a break: Ronte was taken in by a community-based shelter where he became a resident floor-manager. But a full seven years after returning from Iraq, Ronte still does not have permanent housing.
He is now jobless and cannot even afford to buy food. Yet he is stoic. Indeed, Ronte Foster is not alone. Thousands of veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan can tell similar stories, even if their narratives remain hard for America to hear.
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In recent months, however, the fiscal deficit and the search for programmes to cut has refocused attention on the plight of many veterans. The United States agencies responsible - the department of housing and urban development HUD and the veterans affairs VA supportive housing programme - jointly issue vouchers to homeless veterans which are used to pay for accommodation. From , "Hud-Vash" gave out around 30, vouchers and helped 21, veterans into permanent housing. That is more than enough to catch the eye of the Republican Party's deficit hawks such as Paul Ryan, whose draft budget proposed to eliminate it.
This caused an outcry among Democrats, including the California senator, Barbara Boxer.
A compromise budget was eventually reached which salvaged the programme, though in a reduced form that allowed it to deliver only got about 7, vouchers for , as against the typical 10, Analysts say this is far from enough, especially as the withdrawal of almost all US forces from Iraq is completed. In this situation, community-based organisations are all that is left between veterans and a life on the streets.
The most extensive survey of the problem, published by the HUD and the VA, found that nearly 76, veterans - were homeless on any given night in , and that during the same year nearly , veterans spent at least one night in a shelter. Some of those are older soldiers, but the study also found that 11, younger veterans aged stayed in shelters at some point during Nearly all of them had served in Iraq or Afghanistan.
The organisation was started in in response to chronic levels of homelessness among the veteran population; it now has 2, beds in five states, making it the largest non-governmental provider in the country. HUD is specifically interested in "chronic homelessness", which describes those on the streets for a year or more.
A lot of veterans fall into this "chronic" bracket due to war-related PTSD or disability. It is an argument getting harder to make in an anti-government and pro-cuts political atmosphere, even when those at the sharp end are the "homecoming heroes" of media lore. That's just the tip of the iceberg: we've got many more leads to chase down. Find out more and support our work here. I packed only the necessary things, because there are not a lot of storage areas on a ship.
Not only that, there are also things that you are not allowed to bring. Only the necessities. I left the rest to my bunkmate. I told him that he could return my things if he ever saw me again. I would normaly leave these things with my family, but that was not an option this time. I was to report to the ship at noon. At this time I was stationed at Oceana master jet base just south of Norfolk Virginia.
For those that don't know, this is the navy base that is not attached to water. Langley Air Force base is just north of that. I had to be in Jacksonville Florida at noon. I boarded the ship on time. I was still in shock. As the ship pulled away from the pier, all I could think about was my friends and family. This was before cell phones, so I had no way to get ahold of them. For all they knew, I was dead. I thought about them trying to get a hold of me.
My mind raced with thoughts of letting my loved ones down. What have I done? Why didn't I just run? Going through the Suez Canal was like a death trap. Egypt was on the right and I cannot remember what was on the left. This is when a Navy ship is at its most vulnerable point. It is unable to turn around or retreat, when facing oposition. This is not a small canal. It takes all night to get through. All I remember is us closing the hangar doors and sealing off all unnecessary hatches. We were preparing for war.
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The red lights were on. They use red lights because they are harder to detect from the enemy. It also allows us to see in the dark, if we should get ambushed. Instead of sleeping in darkness. I had to sleep in light.
It was red light, but I don't care what they tell you, it's not easy to sleep this way. You figure I would be somewhat used to this, due to my first time at war. It doesn't get any easier. To this day, I still cover my head when I sleep. I remember sitting in the paraloft, with my gas mask readied, watching the security cameras that were mounted on the flight deck.
The ship was completely sealed up. We call this General quarters. All watter tight doors must remain closed to section off the ship in case of a missle attack. It allows the ship to remain afloat, as only sections that are hit can fill with watter. As we entered the persian gulf. I remember the tracers coming toward the ship while we moved forward toward Iraq. I remember the feeling of Doom.
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I remember the pictures that were taken of me, signing the bombs and the missiles. I can remember all of this. I wanted off of this ship. I wanted it so badly.
My life seemed to be out of my control at this point. It was in the hands of another. If I had my boots on the ground, at least I could defend my own life as well as those with me. I felt completely vulnerable. The Enterprise pulled out, with us safely on board, as a West Coast ship was scheduled to pull in. It was over. Thank God, this nightmare is finnaly over. Not over for the world. The war was not over.
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My contribution was over, again. This brought me great relief. Finally some peace. We pulled into Cannes France. This was a celebration. Myself along with four other guys decided to stay out all night and get a hotel. We were supposed to be back by AM but we were there for 5 days so nobody would notice us missing. We just couldn't come back between and AM. We probably drank two times our weight in alcohol. We had a great time.