Iraq vets and the homeless


09:30 AM PDT on Wednesday, June 20, 2007

The Press-Enterprise

Photos: Veteran Joshua Harmon in a sober-living home

Army Spc. Joshua Harmon headed home from the ongoing war in Iraq on the Fourth of July.

It was 2003 and Harmon had spent three months as a machine gunner on the front lines. He was coming home with a lot of baggage.

He said there were nightmares and insomnia. Fear, rage and guilt.

He started at the sound of fireworks and snapped for no reason. He said he felt shame for sleeping in a soft bed while his buddies were still in the desert.

A year later, Harmon said he was alone and living on the streets, a victim of the mental scars inflicted by combat and the drugs and alcohol with which he tried to heal them.

“I’d walk 14-15 miles at a time, because in my mind, I was still on patrol,” said Harmon, a square-shouldered 27-year-old with close-cropped brown hair and an intense gaze.

Story continues below

Stan Lim / The Press-Enterprise

Joshua Harmon is staying at a sober living home for veterans in San Bernardino. He spent three months in Iraq and wound up homeless about a year after his return.

Harmon, who has been in a federally funded housing program in San Bernardino for several months, is one of the new faces of homelessness — veterans returning from combat in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Experts say growing numbers of former servicemen and women — wracked by post-traumatic stress disorder and brain injuries and struggling with substance abuse and other ills — are winding up on the streets.

It is a problem that military and Veterans Affairs officials and homeless advocates are struggling to cope with. A Department of Defense task force reported last week that “the military system does not have enough resources, funding or personnel to adequately support the psychological health of service members and their families in peace and during conflict.”

From 2004 to 2006 — the most current data available — the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs identified as homeless 1,049 service members who served in the current fighting in either Iraq or Afghanistan.

Read the full article at Press Enterprise.


~ by Brad Edwards on June 22, 2007.

4 Responses to “Iraq vets and the homeless”

  1. Every day we get a bigger, more filled in picture of the long term effects our country’s serveicemembers will be struggling with as the ward drags on. Is it even possible to prevent “another Vietnam?”

  2. If you haven’t seen the film WHEN I CAME HOME yet, check out the one-minute trailer at:

    It’s a documentary about Iraq war veterans who end up homeless after returning from the war and getting no help from the VA. With over 200,000 vets from Iraq and Afghanistan waiting for “decisions” on their disability benefits, is it any wonder that over 1,000 are now homeless? What a national disgrace.

    I say, if the gov’t is offering $20,000 to new recruits to fight this war, give every vet a $20,000 bonus for having already served. The VA is broken and no one is fixing it.

    Support The Vets!

  3. I know the guy in the article. He and I both received sufficient assistance from the VA after our return. The VA works, but you have to ask.

  4. SGT M, that’s great news. I know that many vets are now getting the benefits (albeit months later than promised). It’s good to hear it’s coming through.

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