Please Help A Veteran Have A Home

I recently launched a4-455E6BCC-564561-800 Go Fund Me campaign that likely has some questioning its existence. I hope to explain these in this article. I also hope to explain why this campaign is so important to me.

First, a bit of background. In late 2012, my wife was offered the opportunity to take a temporary job assignment outside of the U.S. As this would be an accompanied assignment, it meant she and I and our children would be moving. We faced a dilemma of what to do with our house. With the market being such that it was, we knew selling it would not work very well for our short time frame. Therefore, we chose to try to rent it out. Renting your home to strangers when you are living outside of the United States can be risky. After all, it isn’t possible to monitor the tenants nor how they treat the property in your absence. We really did not want to get into a mess with the whole renting thing, but had no choice given our decision to move for my wife’s job.

About this same time, a former student and her husband were about to return to the U.S. from Germany where he had been stationed. Well, where his wife, my former student, had been living while he was deployed to Afghanistan with the Army. They were seeking a nice place to live back in her hometown. Now, houses in the area are rather expensive as are the rents. As she looked for houses to rent, she located one that she liked. She spoke with the owners/landlords who were willing to rent to them. However, they wanted to meet her husband first. On the day he could be there to look at the house, he got out of their vehicle. Now, Devin (not his real name) is a rather rough looking individual. He has a few tattoos and is built like a fighter, as he should be given his stint with the Army. When they went to the door, the owner/landlord said the house was already to be rented to someone else. It seemed to the couple that this decision was made based on the veteran’s appearance rather than the truth. However, they are not the type of people to confront individuals who are being ignorant about judging appearances over character, so they went away still looking for a place to live.

She and I came into contact with one another and I mentioned our situation with needing to find renters. Angela (not her real name) brought Devin over to see the house. They fell in love with it. We talked more and discovered that what they could afford was less than our mortgage payment, but time was growing short for us to find someone to trust with our house. After a great deal of prayer and soul searching, we agreed to rent to them for less than what we pay each month for our mortgage. Financially, not the best idea, but something just told us that this house was meant for them. We’d always seen the next owners as a young couple as it is a good starter house in a fairly decent part of the town. The plan was for them to rent to own the house from us.

A couple of months passed and we moved out and they moved in. Everything seemed to be working for all of us. Angela was attending school part-time and working. Devin was working steady as well. However, things would not remain good. He started showing signs of PTSD from his tour in Afghanistan. (As I learned from Devin, he had been sent to Afghanistan to be a mechanic for the vehicles. However, they needed a gunner and placed him in that position. While on patrol, his convoy hit an IED).

When it came to his new job back here, he was laid off after a couple of months. Eventually, after a couple of months, he got another job, only to be laid off shortly thereafter. They fell behind on their bills and lost their only car. Still, they managed to get by, but unfortunately did so by relying on check advance services. Adding insult to injury, they suffered another miscarriage.

We noticed that rent was late and worked with them to keep a roof over their heads by allowing them to pay what they could to us. This, in turn, reduced what savings we had as well since we needed to borrow from what little we had in savings to pay our bills since I cannot locate employment in the country where we are living. Fortunately, both of them are back to working full time again, but they still struggle to make ends meet as they are trying to catch up on their bills. We are still working with them when it comes to rent, but it is becoming hard on all of us. A recent update from this couple advised me that they are now parents to twins. As joyful as this is for them after trying for so long, I know that this will also lead to more expenses for them.

When I was praying the other day, it struck me. If people who care only for themselves can start a Go Fund Me campaign, why can’t someone who actually wants to help someone else? So, I started a campaign to try to raise the funds needed to pay off the mortgage on the house and give it to this young couple. They take great care of the place as if it was already their own. They have served our country as both a soldier and the spouse of a soldier. They are hard-working honest people who just need something to give them a chance to get back on more solid ground financially. They have worked so hard for the past two years to try to buy this house and have a home of their own. We would like to see that happen sooner for them rather than later.

Some people may be wondering, when they see this campaign, as to if I plan to profit from the sale of the house. The simple answer is no. All this campaign is for is the amount owed on the mortgage so that we can give this family the house. Nothing more than that. Is it a loss on our part not to try to make a profit on the sale of the house? Maybe, given we lived in that house for over 12 years and we want nothing from any equity that may have built up over the years.

However, that is not what this is about. It is about helping a veteran and his wife and family have a decent home of their own. Alone, we cannot afford to do this for them. We have tried and continue to try. However, maybe if others help, then this can come to fruition.

The only profit I’ll make on this is knowing that the house is theirs. Yes, the mortgage will be paid, but when we hand the deed to this couple, it will be far more worth it than the house is to us. The house will be theirs.

Some may question why I am not giving the couple’s real names. It is out of respect for them. I know that once Devin found out about this idea, he was embarrassed and feels that somehow he is a failure as a provider. I have assured him that he isn’t. All of us have fallen on tough times sometime in our lives. Theirs has been a bit overwhelming though. I can assure you that they are no relation to us. If anyone wants to know more about them privately, then I will answer that as best I can. However, I wish to continue to respect their privacy and will not reveal their names outside of a private email to anyone who requests it.

I double checked with the folks at Go Fund Me to see if this was a valid campaign and they approved it before I even started it. I tried to run this without the couple knowing, but they found out as I posted the campaign on Facebook and Twitter. Again, they are a bit embarrassed that I’m doing this as they truly wanted to make it all on their own, but agreed to let me continue with the campaign. They are continuing to try to make full rent payments as this campaign continues. I will make every effort to update the amount needed as the mortgage amount decreases. The amount we are looking to raise will go down through both our mortgage payments being made as well as any contributions the campaign may raise. I will not take any funds from this campaign until we are at goal and only then to pay off the mortgage so we can give this family their house.

The link for the campaign is gofundme.com/HelpAVetHaveAHome.

Thank you.

Helping those who keep the U.S. the Land of the Free

Picture this. A soldier comes home from serving his or her country. They hear words of encouragement from the people in the airport or restaurant as the pass in uniform. They may even have a meal paid for by someone as a gesture of thanks for their service to our country. They may even get a standing ovation at a theme park when asked to stand en mass for recognition as a veteran. This all sounds like America cares about her people in uniform.

Now, picture this. That same soldier discovers that there is nowhere for him or her to find a decent paying job. He or she loses their housing. They become homeless. Where are the people who thanked them when they returned? Where are the politicians who sent them and praised them for their service when they returned?
We have heard politicians say those on government assistance are lazy and dependent on the system. Yet, they fail to mention that each month “a total of 900,000 veterans nationwide live in households that relied on SNAP to provide food for their families,” according to an article from United Press International dated November 13, 2013 (http://www.upi.com/Health_News/2013/11/11/Some-170000-US-veterans-to-be-cut-from-food-stamps/UPI-91491384230282/). Talk about a lack of respect.

Also, according to an article in Stars and Stripes, homelessness among veterans is a huge issue with over 57,000 veterans being homeless as of January 2013 (http://www.stripes.com/number-of-homeless-vets-drops-but-va-goal-might-be-out-of-reach-1.253983).

How is it that we can send our young men and women to fight overseas and serve our country, but we cannot house or employ them when they come home? This is a travesty. It is shameful for our country to do this to people who risked their lives. It is shameful for us to allow them to return with psychological wounds and not offer them help with these as well. It is all the more shameful that our elected officials, regardless of party, will call them lazy, yet use them for photo opportunities and speech backdrops. During last year’s government shutdown, those loyal to the Tea Party raced to defend the rights of veterans to visit memorials that had been shut down. However, those same politicians also voted to gut government programs that help veterans and their families once the cameras were not focused on them. This sends the message that patriotism only works for them if it will help them get elected or somehow shows them to be good Americans, which they are not.

When are we, as the people of the United States, going to stand up and demand help for our poor, especially our veterans who have served, yet are suffering from the greed of our politicians and their wealthy donors who wish to take assistance away from those who need it?

It is time for good people to stand up and speak out!

It is time for those politicians who refuse to help others to be voted out!

It is time for our veterans to know that we do care about them and all who are suffering from unemployment, homelessness, hunger, and lack of access to proper healthcare!

It is time for we, the citizens of the United States, to demand more of ourselves and our elected officials!

It is time!

What’s Happening to Our Country?

Events unfolding and having already unfolded in the United States cause me, and I am certain others as well, great concern as to where our country is heading. The horrible racist rants against the recently crowned Miss America. The racist rants against anyone who is not white and sings our national anthem. The recent shootings at the Navy base in Washington, D.C. The proliferation of weapons, particularly guns and automatic rifle.  The lack of funding for social programs such as aid for children and education. The attack on education and classroom curriculum, especially in the area of science. The actions of one political party to hold our country hostage through blocking all efforts to create a budget as well as not allowing for universal healthcare. The attacks on women concerning healthcare that is particular for them. All of these things and more are causes of concern about where our country is heading.

What happened to the United States as a melting pot for all of us to become one? E Pluribus Unum.

Excuses are being made that the rampant racism is due to whites being tired of having to take a backseat to other races. I believe it is due more to some whites, particularly the narrow-minded and socially isolated ones, finally realizing that they are no longer comprise the majority of the people in the United States. This scares some of them, as they have never needed to learn about other cultures. One of the pillars of prejudice is ignorance. It is easier for some people to hate rather than branch out of their comfort zones to embrace cultures different from theirs. Sometimes they go as far to accuse people who do not look like them as being foreigners and even terrorists, even though those people were born in the United States and have been nothing but good citizens.

A case in point is the recently crowned Miss America, Miss Nina Davuluri of New York. She is an American whose parents immigrated, prior to her birth, from India. She is an intelligent and beautiful woman. However, at the announcement of her as Miss America, there were hundreds of racist comments calling her things like “Miss Terrorist”, “Miss 7-11”, “a foreigner”, “Miss Arab”, etcetera. These comments come because she is not Caucasian and she now represents our country for the year to come at pageants, especially the Miss Universe pageant.

Since when did a person’s skin color dictate their nationality? The last I heard anything like this was the idea of the master Aryan race promoted by the Nazis. Is our country coming to this? We have been bombarded for the past five plus years by the political “birthers” who accuse our president of not being an American due to his skin color and that his biological father was from Kenya, yet our president was born in the State of Hawaii and that has been proved countless times including through the release of his birth certificate by that state. Yet, there are those who perpetuate his not being a “real” American.

A funny term, “real” American. What is a real American? For all sake of argument, the closest anyone comes to being a real American are the Native Americans who we have relegated to being second-class citizens through broken treaties and forced moves to reservations. Americans are a mixed bag of different races, cultures, religions, lifestyles, and such. We come from all parts of the world. Our ancestors came from all parts of the world. Over time, the cultures and races started to mix. Therefore, there is no litmus test for who is and who is not a true American, except for being those who were born here and those who immigrated to the United States and have worked for citizenship.

We should be past actions that raise up the ghosts of the era prior to the Civil Rights actions of the 1960s and 1970s. If a closer look is taken, though, it can be seen we have a long way yet to go before we get to where we should be when it comes to how we relate to one another.

The terrible shootings that occurred at the Navy base in Washington, D.C. serve as another cause for concern on two levels. The first is the proliferation of handguns and automatic weapons backed by the politically powerful National Rifle Association and their paid politicians who attempt to wrap themselves up in the second amendment of the Constitution as their reason for that proliferation. The second amendment calls for a “well-regulated militia”, not a well-armed, untrained bunch of gun nuts who own any type of firearm ever made. There is no need for private citizens to own automatic or semi-automatic weapons. If the argument is that they hunt with them, then those people seriously need to consider hunting lessons. If you cannot hit a deer with a regular shotgun, then you are a really bad shot and a hazard to society.

Along these same lines, what is wrong with having background checks and registration of individuals who purchase firearms? The argument backed by the NRA claims the registration of firearms is a way for the government to know who has what type and how many weapons and will use that to confiscate those weapons from law-abiding gun owners. That argument is egregious at best.

First, the United States Armed Forces are better armed than any gun owner can be. If the government wanted to take your guns, then they could do so quite easily regardless of whether you have registered them or not.

Second, if the gun owners are law abiding, then they should want someone aside from themselves to have a record of what they own in the event of someone stealing their weapon and using it to commit a crime. If the law-abiding gun owner notices his or her weapon is missing, they can report it to protect themselves from being accused of the crime. If they sell it, then they can switch registration to the buyer much like is done when a car is purchased and the registration is switched. It is a way to protect the gun owner rather than a potential way to punish them.

Background checks for all weapons purchases are to protect people, not to harm them. The argument is made that it is an invasion of privacy to check the criminal and mental health background of a person who purchases a weapon. How much sense does that really make? If a person is a criminal or is mentally unstable, then why should they be able legally to purchase any weapon? It would make it a great deal safer if certain people never owned firearms. Might they still be able to obtain them illegally? Yes, but those weapons either likely would be stolen (and have been reported as such through registration) or brought into our country illegally.

The second point the shooting brings up is the lack of care for veterans who suffered emotional and psychological damage while serving our country in the Armed Services. We are willing to send troops to fight, but not to fund the care they need when they return, unless their wounds are physical in nature. That is ludicrous! I covered this a little while ago in another blog post, but it bears mentioning once again. We need to provide psychological assistance for our veterans as well as physical assistance for them. There are thousands of people who are returning to our country who witnessed atrocities that have left them scarred for life psychologically and they need care for those scars. Without that care, some may become a danger to society through no fault of their own. It is shameful that we can allocate money to send our young men and women to war, but we cannot afford to assist them when they come home shattered in more than a physical manner.

Not funding social programs harms our country deeply and creates future problems that arise, but are ignored in the present. Recently, legislation that traditionally allocates funds for food stamps held cuts to that program, including to the SNAP (Supplemental Nutritional Food Program) program. This affects primarily those who have children, are elderly, or are disabled. The number of Americans affected by this could be well over 300,000. It is simply wrong to deny the ability to eat to the old, the infirm, and to children. It is a heartless and callous act taken by those who have against those who have nothing. The excuse is that the program needs fixed, as there are people who take advantage of the system. There are corporations and wealthy who take advantage of the tax system, but the politicians who receive money from them do not seem to care about that very much and would rather attack the elderly, the disabled, and children.

Along this same vein is funding education. While most education funding comes from individual states, the federal government supplements that funding though tax dollars as well. However, the funding to education has decreased significantly over the years at both the federal and state levels. There are schools that have outdated textbooks and buildings that are falling apart. The solution that some politicians are advocating is to privatize our schools and run them like businesses. That is a recipe for disaster. Unlike public education that is free and obtainable for all children, private schools are run like a business. Are there protections for students who do not test well or for whom the standard format of school does not work? Doubtful. The United States needs a strong and free public educational system that treats all students equally and affords everyone with a chance to succeed rather than a select few. As citizens, whether we have children in the schools or not, we need to demand that our schools be funded and should be happy to pay our taxes to make it so.

Within education, there is an attack against sound scientific education being waged by those who believe that our schools should teach a curriculum that is based upon the Christian bible, especially when it comes to science. The advocates for this claim that Creationism needs to be taught alongside Evolution. Creationism has no part in a public school as it is based on faith rather than on the logic of science. If parents want their children to learn the story of creation as told by the Christian scriptures, then they should attend a church and have their children enrolled in a Sunday school class to learn it, not in a public classroom where there are children from different backgrounds and religious preferences. That simply falls under the separation of Church and State guaranteed by the Constitution.

Our country has been held hostage for the past few years by a faction within one of the political parties that wants to cut government funding to its bare bones. They want extremely low taxes and fewer regulations in order to save taxpayer money. Sounds great on the surface, but it is not practical in reality. No one wants to pay more taxes. No one likes to pay taxes. Neither of these are arguable statements. However, if we want safe roads and bridges, good schools, to be protected from enemies without and within, fire and police protection, and a myriad of other items provided by our government, then we need to pay taxes for them. Basic high school government and economics dictates this as needed by a government like ours.

The reality of this faction is that they want to create a utopia for the wealthy on the backs of everyone else. They want the wealthiest to pay less and make the argument that this will create jobs. It has not yet, nor will it ever do so. By having the wealthy pay less, all that is being done is making them wealthier while those who are not wealthy get poorer as a result. Yes, I know this is a rather simplistic view and economics are far more complicated, but this is the agenda in a nutshell that is being shoved down the throats of the American public by this radical political faction. We need to stand up to this faction and the elected officials who are being paid off by the select few and demand that the wealthy pay more in taxes. We need to demand a budget be passed that is fair to all while also reducing the deficit in manageable increments that do not cause harm to the most vulnerable in our society.

Another one of the major reasons why this particular political faction wants to cripple the government has to do with the Affordable Care Act sometimes called Obamacare. They make comments that it will cause insurance premiums to cost more and that people will be denied basic medical services. Most of the information I have read, even from independent sources, state that it will actually save money and more people will have access to care. While it may be true that certain procedures may be delayed in being performed, all should have equal access and be cared for even better than is now available. Those against universal healthcare primarily are so due to it leveling the playing field for all Americans and that those who earn more will fund the care of those who earn less. I find it ironic that many of those against universal healthcare claim to be Christians as well since Jesus healed all people and taught that humans were to love and care for one another. For them to be against universal healthcare that would benefit so many people seems rather hypocritical.

Of particular concern in the realm of healthcare is how much a certain faction is bent on limiting the access women have to healthcare. There are Planned Parenthood and other clinics that are geared toward women’s health issues that are closing down for lack of funding all due to this particular factions attitude toward abortion and access to birth control. Seems odd that this faction also wants a smaller government, but they want to regulate a very personal part of a woman’s life. It should not be surprising that the majority of these people calling for limits in birth control and contraceptives are males, as most males want the ability to procreate until the cows come home. If they had to endure the pregnancy and delivery, then they might think otherwise. (In addition, I say this as a male, by the way). If they truly care about women, not to mention potential children, then they should wholeheartedly back these clinics and access to care for women in particular. As far as the issue of abortion, it is the woman’s decision. The government has no right to regulate moral choices for people’s personal lives so long as they do not harm other beings that are able to live outside the womb.

All these things being said, it is a difficult time to be an American who has a conscience and who engages in thought deeper than what is expected by certain news outlets. We need, as a country, to join with one another and reach out across racial, ethnic, gender, and religious barriers and embrace our diversity in a grand fashion to drown out the racist rants of the few. We need, as a country, to demand strong gun laws to include mandatory background checks and possibly even psychological testing before weapons are allowed to be bought and sold. We need, as a country, to adequately fund education and social programs that assist all Americans and not count the cost as a negative, but as a positive as we can rest assured that we are caring for our neighbors and creating a healthier and happier citizenry. We need, as a country, to demand that our elected officials represent us and not special interests. We need, as a county, to demand that our elected officials pass a budget that helps all people and decreases the deficit in a systematic and responsible manner that does no harm to those who are in need of assistance to survive. We need, as a country, to demand that all people be given access to affordable healthcare regardless of their station in life. We need, as a country, to demand that government stop trying to regulate what goes on in a person’s bedroom or with their bodies.

I love my country, but shake my head in disbelief at the actions going on in it. Maybe I should seriously consider running for public office. Hmmm…

Memorial Day 2013

Memorial Day 2013. A day for many to have off work and cook out with friends and family. Maybe even catch a movie or a baseball game or even watch some golf. However, more than all of this, it is a day that we need to reflect on the sacrifices of those who went to war or into battle as members of our armed forces. By sacrifices, we need to remember those who have died, but we also must remember those who continue to fight the war even after they return home.
Take, for example, the soldier who has, like so many of our soldiers, endured multiple deployments to Iraq or Afghanistan with little time off between them. Yes, they were trained for combat; however, the human mind and body can only take so much stress before it has negative effects. A friend of mine told me about his commanding officer who had endured multiple deployments. He was a good man who cared deeply about his troops. They loved him for it. He would hang out with them when they would go out on the town when in Germany. He made certain they made it safely back to base. This man, when he found out he was to be deployed once again to Afghanistan, committed suicide rather than face the horrors of war again. I believe it would have been his fourth deployment. It is shameful for our country to send these men and women into harm’s way time and time again without some way for them to decompress and get the help they need to deal with the psychological scars of war.
There are thousands of veterans who have returned to their homes and jobs, but within themselves, part of them is still at war. They continue to fight the battles in their heads as they cannot get it out of their minds. It haunts them and causes many of them to take their own lives to escape the pain. These veterans suffer from what was once known as shell shock, but is now known as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). It is the same thing regardless of the more politically correct moniker. It is hard to treat as many do not seek the assistance they need because they fear it is a sign of weakness to ask for help. Instead, they suffer through unknown rages or even recurring images of war that haunt them as they attempt to return to normal.
Another sad aspect of this is that, since their wounds are not in the open, many believe they have no injuries. We need to remember that although the body is intact, the mind may not be. Unfortunately, there are simply not enough professionals in the military to help these young men and women with the war raging in their minds. If someone sees a veteran with limbs lost, they want to help. Yet, those who have not lost a limb still have lost part of themselves and need our help desperately. The nightmares do not end for them. Sometimes the slightest sound or scent can trigger an episode of anxiety or panic for them. We have heard past news headlines where this has led to people being killed. While that does occur, many more veterans suffering from PTSD take their own life rather than the lives of others.
These young men and women deserve so much more than to suffer. They deserve our support. They need to be put in contact with professionals who can help them. They need to know that it is okay to ask for help. It is hard for someone who has been trained to fight and keep their pain silent to open up and tell their story, but it has happen for healing to begin. Their loved ones go through it with them, yet may not even realize what they are truly going through in their minds. We, as Americans, need to demand that these veterans get the help they need. We need to urge our elected officials to provide funding for adequate mental health services for our veterans. While many veterans may not currently show their pain, it is bound to surface sometime in their lives. They need help.
So, as you sit down to enjoy your hamburger or hot dog or the game, take a moment and also write to your elected officials and demand better for our veterans. Not just those with visible wounds and scars, but those whose scars are deeper.