The Last Talking Point Of the Left
By Dean Barnett
The photograph caught the 20-year-old Blake caked with blood and soot as a cigarette dangled from his mouth. He looked young, but also prematurely old. To many, the picture represents the modern American fighting man--resolute, determined, and much older than his years.
Today, Miller is home from Iraq and suffering from a severe case of post-traumatic stress disorder. His is a heartbreaking saga, and the Times's lengthy story detailed the efforts of Luis Sinco (the Times staff photographer who took the photo) to help him. Near the end of the story, Sinco quotes Miller's 21-year-old brother saying to him, "I'm glad I didn't join the Marines. I got a nice house, a wife and twin baby daughters, and I drive a Durango that's used but damn near new. You're divorced, drive a beat-up pickup and live in a trailer." His brother said that the returned soldier's "head is screwed up."
The Boston Globe celebrated Veterans Day with an editorial titled "When Johnny Comes Home Less." Citing a National Alliance to End Homelessness study, the Globe stated that over the course of a year, half-a-million veterans go homeless. (A subsequent correction dropped this number to 337,000.)
The Globe proceeded to expose the grim facts that "Veterans are at risk. Many grapple with traumatic brain injuries, the loss of limbs, post-traumatic stress disorder, and mental illness. Some need to find jobs and housing."
These are important stories, and shouldn't be ignored, but it is also hard to ignore the political agenda at work here. Individual tales of heroism don't interest papers like the Times and the Globe; individual tragedies do. Portraying veterans as lost souls is a narrative that is politically convenient.