131,000 military veterans are homeless on any given night. – U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs
in 2012, 301 soldiers were killed in combat. 349 took their own lives. – Pentagon
30% suffer post traumatic stress disorder. ptsd is a mental illness caused by suffering an event of intense fear, helplessness or horror. uncontrolled panic attacks may be induced by sudden loud noises or a real or imagined threat. – Mayo Clinic & NY Times Health
There is a complexity to California, no reference to the south.
Northern California actually runs north to south. Bordering Oregon on its top end, and splitting Fresno to the south. While a richness abounds all over, there is a certain vibrancy, that only runs east to west. Buffering the Pacific Ocean, known as the coast, and sharing the Sierra Nevadas, with the state of the same name. This distance is modest, less than 150 miles, but the terrain, weather and its people, can make radical changes. Cool temperatures in the cities surrounding the bay, give rise to a 40 degree difference, after clearing the canyon, and gliding through the valley. Upon arrival in the mountains, there is a comfort to the air again, but between the three points, is a range called the foothills.
Rolling hills and wide open space, deep green canyons and roaring river expanses give the illusion of calm, jedi-ing a picture-perfect world. While California’s 40 million residents, reside mostly along the coast, and through its central valley, the foothills were not immune to expansion–building towns, one after another. Tourists do not see it, they are taken back by the daffodils, the quaint eateries, and caves, modernized for tours. Locals like to tease, sending alarmist into a panic, with true tales of cougar sightings, elaborated by not much. But if you spend a little time, or look real close, the homeless challenges, that rock big cities, have not spared this idyllic setting, generally hidden, but perhaps no more, as the drumbeats of discourse, have been sounded, for the citizens living in the shadows, have found a voice.
from Miami, Swift Slay
with Away feat. Boddy Reddy
The Hypocrisy of War
written & edited by Kendall F. Person
an Annual Memorial Day event
DEDICATED TO AND IN MEMORY OF THE AMERICAN SOLDIER
In the small hamlet of Camelot, a few locals had vacationed together. Planned by a ban of well-established Veterans, accompanied by their wives, old friends and a few politicians. The trip took them to England, of which they fell in love. Charmed by its formality, impressed with their hosts, it was the historic architecture of which they coveted the most. Having little desire to relocate across the pond, upon returning home dazzling with stories, to those left behind, the league of respected Veterans, convinced the area council to build a modest replica of big Ben, the building they adored the most. The story gained traction, surrounding towns joined in to. Builders submitting bids from top corporations, and the well established veterans, returned to the celebrity, that had for so long, been elusive and cruel.
Dreams became reality, as Little Ben was soon erected, standing tall, strong and majestic. A celebration was created, starting small but soon got away from them. Retired serviceman, from throughout the north, planned a caravan to the ribbon cutting, with government leaders, soon following suit. As the anticipated crowd grew, a modest celebration, morphed lavishly out of control. Corporate sponsors soon stepped in, tossing around cash, inducing a bidding war, for namesake to a monument, that had already been namesaked decades before. But it was the latest techno giants, that won out in the end, designing a bell to ring, rolling sounds across the land.
The Pacific Ocean’s strength, blows in a steady wind, whistling through the Golden Gate, then gliding across the bay. Dense fog shrouds the region in mist, harnessing the temperatures, where even in the dead of summer, the mercury teeters around 62.
But the wind holds no gale force. It meets its match, budding up against the mid-level range Sulfur Springs Mountains. American Canyon offers a steep drop, then a reminder, of what summers are like in the west, is instant. 62 near the bay, one of five floating micro climates in the region, slams the unaware, and as a welcome to the valley, temperatures soar to 102.
A cooling breeze, blown up through a hidden jewel adorned as the delta, moderates the summer’s fierceness. But the foothills are not so lucky. Elevated just 3000 feet, no chills arrive from the mountains, and the delta breeze turns its back on the folks in them thar hills. But on this day, the sun was no more than an after thought. Bearing the same intensity – but opposite effect of a mob mentality, the residents of Camelot would not be left out. Each wished to create memories on the day known as Little Ben. London had even sent its proxy, which also assured, history would be play out correctly. The Veterans league planned a parade, utilizing a networking system, those who caravan would meet up right before noon, under the shade of Little Ben.
A trip to Great Britain, by a medium sized group, and a dream to construct a tower, which lived to bare fruit, morphed and elevated, grew and branched off, as even the activists decided this platform was theirs to share too. Led by Dr. Melanie Scott Jordan, a tenured professor at Stanford University, who had become the nation’s go to expert on Veterans, after being awarded a $5 million dollar grant on a new study of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. She too began to galvanize the veterans, but the one’s who were suffering, cold and lonely on their nations’ streets.
In Camelot, Robyn Mayhew was walking down the aisle. Tears streaming down her face, father by her side, mother looking on from the front row with pride. Standing in her cross-hairs, was the only man of her dreams. In full military dress, he awaited atop the alter for his bride and wife to be.
High school sweethearts, they had been through their share of fights, but when his unit was called into duty, their love became air tight. Private Donald Lawson was proud to serve his country, both upon departure and on his third return. While he came back from tour one, tour two and tour three with all his limbs, it was obvious to those who knew him, his mind was not the same.
Panic attacks were random, often violent and unnerving, but always depressing. Invites to the homes of close friends and family, slowed to a trickle before finally drying up. But Robyn would not forsake him, even refusing to run, when the cold look in his eyes, displayed a blankness, that even most writers find hard to describe. She would make it her life’s mission to get him help, and not for the sake of happiness, she no longer imagined that would ever come, but just so her sweet Donald would not live in a constant hell. She would pound the pavement each and every day. Once, she fist fought a Representative’s assistant, for refusing to tell her boss, of his waiting constituents pressing need for information or simply a caring talk.
As she walked down the aisle, silent tears turned to sobs, as she knew her prayers were answered. “Give us this one day of happiness and I swear I will do all the rest”, she prayed the evening before, one hand toward God, the other clutching her beautiful wedding dress. Private Lawson was crying too. He loved his dear sweet Robyn so much more than she ever knew. But the marriage was not his idea. He wanted no part of it. He tried everything to make her hate him, even sabotage, by sleeping with her best friend. But when love is sound and the mind is strong, it cannot be shaken, even when every night, the man lying next to you, screams in his sleep, and fights ghosts, that should have long since been forgot.
Camelot is nestled in hills far from the main road. But its size and proximity to the cities of Sacramento and Lake Tahoe, includes it in certain aspects of the greater metropolis. News of the tiny foothill town playing host to a giant event, soon captured the attention of the media, even reaching the front page. By 11:00 a.m., numbers rose of news cameras, day travelers, activist and hippies. Petitions passed around, platforms being planned, jugglers on stilts, and homeless veteran soldiers preparing to make their stand. A once cozy ribbon cutting, was no longer about Little Ben. The homeless veterans hiked, some of them for 40 miles. Veterans caravan in motor homes and beautiful, corporate sponsored, classic cars.
Familiar faces walk passed him. He recognizes each and every one. Although they do not acknowledge his presence, he senses a budding plot. The sky is black and stormy, yet no rain falls. The faces disappear as quickly as they come. A howling wind whipped passed him, setting his nerves on their nightly jittery dance. But it was the sound of explosions in the distance, they started him running, no more than two feet in any direction. The strangers’ faces return, only now deep red like blood.
There is a meadow in the distance. Steadying himself enough, he is able to run toward it. A child appears, looks like the kid he wished he had, though the child’s face he could not see, hidden beneath a mask. Changing course, he turned in the child’s direction, aiming to take the kid with him, in hopes of finding safety, and leaving this awful place. But when his eyes opened from blinking, only darkness stood in front. Using every ounce of mental strength, be beat back another anxiety attack, running toward the meadow, and the oasis of peace it seemed to create.
His arrival in the meadow, proved an error-ed response. Running right into an ambush, revealing the kid as a roadside pipe bomb. Private Donald Lawson lunged at his would be attackers, grabbing one around the neck, he would at least have a resemblance of satisfaction in knowing an enemy soldier, like him, would be dead. It would take Robyn, this time, nearly two minutes to calm him down. To convince the veteran soldier it was just another horrible dream. Barely able to catch her own breath Robyn now knew that two minutes was the maximum amount of time she had, to remove the nightly stranglehold he would have around her neck.
High in the interior of Little Ben is a complex system of old fashion pulls and pulleys. A dozen architects, technicians and even a watchmaker, feverishly work to assure the bell would ring and ring loudly, at precisely 12:00. The men, your average workers, absorbed into the excitement, already planned and spent, the monies that would surely roll in, believing they deserved at least 15 minutes of fame. The watchmaker had little to do, but he was put on payroll, as insurance that all angles averting disaster were covered through and through. While the others worked to exhaustion, the small town watchmen, played games inside his head, A quick glance at his favorite, sun dial wristwatch, showed the time at a quarter til 12.
Robyn reached her dear Donald. Her father took his seat beside her mom. His soldier buddies, the ones that returned home, made the trip from wherever they called home. Most walking, two limping and one wheeled in by his elderly mom. His proud unit, once invincible now existing in the shadows. They stayed in touch, as much they could. Robyn initially sat next to him, when he reminisced on the phone, but between the stories of exploded bodies and complaints of life upon returning home, she felt it easier to give him space. So she would walk around back, sit under the same oak tree, and release all of the tears that she refused to let him see.
Ten minutes till post time, and the ringing of the bell. A crowd once joyful, when pardoned off among themselves, had turned restless. The Veterans league grumbled that they had been outnumbered at their own event. And the homeless Veterans, who served their country under the same type of brutal hell, now looked at the Veterans in the league, with eyes of suspicion, and thoughts they have sold out. The hippies and the tourist were by far the worse. Dancing wildly to their bongos, running in and out of boutiques, swilling their liquor, all laughing up a storm. The media clamored for the best shooting locations, forcing the veterans to move along or trade places. And worse of all, the colossal tower, that ran over budget costing one hundred million dollars, looked clumsy and silly, more like a false idol.
One person, Dr. Melanie Scott Jordan, realized the chaos that was about to assume. At 11:59, in fact, only 30 seconds till the bells would sound off, Dr. Jordan felt worthless with all her degrees. How could she not have known, and sounded the alarms on the mother of all bad ideas.
Some pushing and shoving had already begun, as the hippies refused to stand down and quiet those awful drums. The tourists were oblivious, most too hot and already too tired to notice the tension spread thick in the air.
10 seconds remained and Dr. Melanie Scott Jordan, post doctorate from Harvard, Chair of the Psychology Department at Stanford and now the nation’s go to expert on P.T.S.D, wanted to pull her own hair out.
As confirmation of her just-in analysis, a television crew, still building an elevated structure, dropped a 25 pound beam from 15 feet up. Its collision with the ground, immediately startled all, but spooked nearly half the crowd. And although she was, it did not take a doctor, to notice the real and strange difference in the air. Eyes of former soldiers now roiling the crowd. A few stepping backward, others moving into formation, as part of a drill. Some believed it boot camp, but most having flashbacks returned them to war. Some in the Veterans league, watched with saddening hearts, as their soldiers lost their minds, but others were put off, by the homeless veterans that could not leave it all behind. Television crews turned their cameras away from the clock, and at long last placed the spotlight on our Veterans.
Starting to resemble an idol not seen since Sodom & Gomorrah, Little Ben begin to anger even the sane folk, who now longed to burn the ridiculously named clock — down to the ground. But with 10 seconds til Little Ben’s official debut, there was no time for second guessing. A few hippies, some Veterans and a tourist or two, begin chanting, and dancing then came the backward counting, starting with ten until through.
Two people were not bothered by the weather or the massive crowds. Private Lawson was spared of his usual mid-morning attacks. Robyn received a gift of a beautiful wedding, for her commitment to the love of her life. And with only a sentence left to say, the Pastor did his duty, delivering these familiar words “You may now kiss your bride.”
to be continued…. Phoenix Rising: The Hypocrisy of War