A hard homecoming
Budget battles and a stagnant economy greet America’s soldiers as they return from Iraq and Afghanistan
BRETT QUINZON did two tours in Iraq before leaving active duty in May. Originally from Minnesota, Mr Quinzon now lives in Thomaston, a small town around 65 miles south of Atlanta. A grey December morning found him filling out forms in Atlanta’s large veterans’ hospital, seeking treatment for depression. Since returning from Iraq, he says he has “more anger issues”, and finds himself “more watchful and on-guard in public situations” than he was before he deployed. That is not unusual: many soldiers return from the battlefield with psychological scars. Between January and May, as he prepared to leave active duty, Mr Quinzon applied for hundreds of jobs. The search proved difficult: like many veterans, he enlisted right after high-school, and lacks a college degree. But persistence paid off. He is now an apprentice at a heating and air-conditioning company, and is being trained as a heavy-equipment operator.
Not all recent veterans are so lucky. Around 800,000 veterans are jobless, 1.4m live below the poverty line, and one in every three homeless adult men in America is a veteran. Though the overall unemployment rate among America’s 21m veterans in November (7.4%) was lower than the national rate (8.6%), for veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan it was 11.1%. And for veterans between the ages of 18 and 24, it was a staggering 37.9%, up from 30.4% just a month earlier. More