Driving home after a recent visit to Johns Hopkins, we passed a truck flying American and POW/MIA flags. I remember the elderly men we saw in the waiting room at Hopkins wearing hats identifying them as veterans. Some appeared ill, but all walked with dignity.
In the 1960s, I protested the war but befriended my neighbor’s son, recently returned from Vietnam. One day, as we were taking a walk, a car backfired and he dropped to the sidewalk. This embarrassed him, and I never saw him again.
Decades later, our son returned from the service with severe post-traumatic stress disorder. No longer the charming young man who had enlisted, he was angry, unable to focus, and socially inept. The Veterans Affairs hospitals he contacted were unresponsive. He put his life back together, but did so himself.
Our son did not commit suicide like some veterans, nor did he become one of the homeless veterans. Not all who are lost can be found, but I’m saddened by their plight.
These veterans are prisoners of war. Some eventually will be freed from the captivity imposed by their experiences. Some may rebuild their lives; others never will. Their country should provide these POWs with the resources they need to return to meaningful lives with dignity.
Or maybe we should design new, updated POW/MIA flags — one showing a ragged, filthy woman on the street, and another showing a man on a threadbare sofa holding a gun to his head.
West Lampeter Township