Last year, the number of homeless U.S. veterans on a given night dropped 12 percent from the year before. But tens of thousands were still on the streets, and more could be joining them as troops return from Afghanistan and Iraq. President Obama has vowed to end veterans' homelessness by 2015.
Homeless No More
James Brown left the Army in 1979. And for most of the next 32 years, he lived on the streets in and around Los Angeles. You might have seen him: the dirty, disheveled guy trying to keep warm in a cardboard box.
US Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki was in New Hampshire Tuesday to visit the site of the new Veterans Center in Hooksett. The new center, which will be completed in August, is part of an effort by the VA to help Vets gain better access to medical care and mental health counseling.
Hundreds of thousands of veterans have returned from Iraq and Afghanistan in recent years, eager to get an education under the new post-Sept. 11 GI Bill.
Many vets looking for a school find they are inundated by sales pitches from institutions hungry for their government benefits. Now, lawmakers are looking for ways to protect vets without narrowing their education choices.
The pullout of American troops in Iraq and those returning from Afghanistan have brought many service members back to their families and into the civilian job market.
While there is a new law that offers incentives to employers who hire them, many veterans across the country are trying to start their own businesses. A rigorous, free program started at Syracuse University is giving them the tools to be their own boss.
To help U.S. troops ease back into civilian life, veteran Anthony Bravo Esparza offers them a haircut, and a safe and friendly place to hang out. Esparza — known to his friends as "Dreamer" — sees it as a way to help former soldiers find their way.
Dreamer's barbershop is easy to find; it's set up inside a trailer in the parking lot of the West Los Angeles Medical Center campus of the VA Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System.
In a fluorescent-lit exam room, Col. Rochelle Wasserman sticks ballpoint-size pins in the ears of Sgt. Rick Remalia.
Remalia broke his back, hip and pelvis during a rollover caused by a pair of rocket-propelled grenades in Afghanistan. He still walks with a cane and suffers from mild traumatic brain injury. Pain is an everyday occurrence, which is where the needles come in.
"I've had a lot of treatment, and this is the first treatment that I've had where I've been like, OK, wow, I've actually seen a really big difference," he says.
All wars bring innovations — in weapons, and also in ways to repair the damage done. Penicillin is one of the more famous examples: It came into use as a treatment for troops in World War II.
The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have brought their own breakthroughs, none more dramatic than the prosthetics that come close to giving back what has been lost. And big advances in treating grievous injuries have meant many more troops coming home alive.
Politicians and journalists always run a risk when they judge a voter strictly on on appearances.
There was a reminder of that Monday when Mitt Romney was forced to defend his opposition to gay marriage during a restaurant encounter with a grizzled Vietnam veteran who happened to be gay.
As it turned out the vet, Bob Garon, also was sitting at a restaurant booth with his husband when the unsuspecting Romney, campaigning at the Manchester restaurant, asked if he could sit down with them.
"If I would've finished that flight I would have come home to sell war bonds," says Herman "Herk" Streitburger of Bedford. That last flight did not go as planned; instead, the B24 Liberator Bomber on which he served as gunner was shot down, and as he puts it, Herk became a guest of the German government for about a year.