I was moved to tears the other evening watching Oprah Winfrey interviewing women veterans returning from tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan who are now homeless. The comment was made ...we should all feel the shame of having those who served our country now living on the streets. Now those of us who actively opposed the Viet Nam war know this is nothing new. Thousands of Viet Nam Vets came home with health problems to a country, which turned its back on them. Unfortunately some still have not received the assistance needed to make a decent life for themselves. What’s new now is with over 200,000 women serving we have women who are returning home and for whatever reasons are now homeless. Other’s face custody battles with spouses who were caring for their children while they were deployed. Can you imagine we have laws that protect a veteran’s job while deployed but not their right of custody of their children? One Sergeant Juanita Wilson, having lost an arm and hospitalized at Walter Reade Medical Center made a commitment to “stand by” every women admitted to the facility. She said the hardest thing for her was to get through the days of pain and fear. So she decided while she was healing to literally stand by any other women admitted with serious injuries. One of those women was Tammy Duckworth, now Assistant Secretary of Veterans Affairs who had both her legs amputated. Sergeant Wilson stood by Tammy’s bed as a symbol she could get through the pain. They were reunited on Oprah’s show which aired October 15th 2010. Click For Video Sixty Minutes also featured homeless veterans in Sunday nights show. The problem is growing. As one psychologist stated the homeless veterans are younger and whereas with Viet Nam homelessness showed up 7-8 years after returning, veterans returning from multiple tours of duty are joining the ranks of the homeless at much higher rates, and some within months of their return.
Curiously enough last week a friend of mine from Canada sent me an email with a link to music she wanted me to hear. It’s of a song being sung by people all over the world. I am including the link here for your listening pleasure. The song is Stand By Me. It sends chills up my spine. Obviously I wasn’t supposed to listen to it last week as it has so much more meaning this morning after hearing the importance of “standing by”. Stand By Me
When I hear stories like these my passion for helping managers and entrepreneurs build engaged organizations expands. For it is when we are engaged that we are cognizant we are all united-we are all part of the company employing us, the community we live in, the country we are citizens of and the planet we call Earth. We need to stand by one another.