Ten years ago, I produced a feature story for public radio about Army Reservists as they prepared to deploy for Afghanistan.The piece was built around the drafting of their a last will and testament and centered on the singular question: “what was the most precious thing in their lives?”
Over the summer I reported on homeless vets for Al Jazeera America, many of whom had returned from Afghanistan. It was in many ways the closing of a circle, or perhaps the beginning of another.
In truth the story wasn’t about homelessness, it was about the more nebulous part of violence and war, the scars. Like the radio story from a decade ago I found much of the story was contained in how it was told rather than simply the words. It may be because trauma and violence are not flat, delivered chronologically, they operate outside of neat time divisions, as does recovery.
By Sunday, most of them will be back on the streets, but some will have taken the first steps towards finding a home. How they arrive at taking that very first step says much about the vexing nature of veteran homelessness. It says even more about the universal human needs that, for many, lie behind their homelessness.