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Need to Know, November 11, 2011: Coming home: The enduring sacrifice

For Veteran’s Day, Need to Know dedicates the entire half-hour to exploring the economic and emotional difficulties many U.S. troops face once they return home.

First, we take a look at the hardships our veterans endure years after their tours of duty. Because many troops enlist before they go to college, they often find it difficult to find or keep jobs, and some end up losing their homes. Then, documentarian Sebastian Junger proposes a way to help veterans who struggle with the painful memories of civilian deaths: a memorial to the victims of American wars.

And finally, essayist Marcos Villatoro profiles a housekeeper whose son is fighting in Iraq, as part of our ongoing series “American Voices.” Maria Hinojosa hosts. Check your local listings for details.

Also, don’t forget to vote in our poll.

Watch the individual segments:

Coming home: Veterans’ stories of hardship

Anchor Maria Hinojosa explores joblessness and homelessness among veterans who fought in Iraq or Afghanistan. Because many of these young veterans enlisted without going to college, they often find it difficult to get work once they return, especially in a difficult economy. This sometimes leads to extreme financial hardship, causing some of them to lose their homes.

A different kind of memorial

In an essay for Need to Know, documentarian Sebastian Junger says more needs to be done to care for American troops scarred by their experiences in battle. He proposes that a memorial be built where veterans can go to help cope with civilian deaths.

American Voices: Mopping up

In our recurring “American Voices” series, which offers a platform for essayists with diverse backgrounds and diverse points of view, Marcos Villatoro of Los Angeles profiles a housekeeper whose son is now serving in Afghanistan. He says her job is like her son’s: they both clean up the mess left by others

Watch more full episodes of Need to Know.



  • Jekhlassi

    I do feel that veterans should have the first choice of job placement when they return to the United States.  They have sacrificed more than most of us ever will.  They deserve to be recognized, honored, and given rewards for their service.

  • Starlashore

    the abuse of crooked “veterans” abusing the welfare system offered for their “sacrifies” stinkens the empathy that should be there for the real disabled war vets. I see perfectly healthy young people taking their welfare checks and working construction jobs for cash under the table and getting narcotic meds once a month from the VA to trade and use for their personal substance abuse. stinks just as wrong as wallstreet crooks and other welfare crooks.

  • Bob from Reno

    First, our mental health system is disgustingly bad.  It’s primary purpose is not to return people to health in as short a time as possible, but to enrich the drug companies who have Liberals and Conservatives - Democrats and Republicans – in their pockets.  The following is from a draft of TOWARDS A FIRST RATE MENTAL HEALTH SYSTEM – a subject I am trying to bring to greater awareness.  “Trauma can occur from a variety
    of causes, including maltreatment, separation, abuse, criminal victimization,
    physical and sexual abuse, natural and man made disasters, war, and sickness.
    Although some individuals who experience trauma move on with few symptoms,
    many, especially those who experience repeated or multiple traumas, suffer a
    variety of negative physical and psychological effects. Trauma exposure has
    been linked to later substance abuse, mental illness, increased risk of
    suicide, obesity, heart disease, and early death.” (Leading
    Change: A Plan for SAMHSA’s Roles and Actions 2011–2014 – pg. 8)




    auto accidents, Invasive Medical & Dental 
    procedures, Falls & Minor Injuries, Natural Disasters, Illness, Being
    left Alone (young children), Prolonged Immobilization, Exposure to extreme heat
    or cold, Sudden loud noises, Birth Stress (both infant & mother).
    …people become mentally ill when they have
    been under high levels of stress.  Stress can be considered two ways:    1. Acute stress – bereavement, losing a job
    etc… this is sometimes referred to as stress resulting from life events 2.
    Chronic stress – results from things such as unhappy relationships, not having
    enough money etc….
     Yet, Trauma and ways to reduce stress are not included in always included in the mental health system.  Pushing drugs is.

  • Thecobexnt

    I hate to say it but some people aren’t going to make it to the head of the class. They join the military and hopefully it will take care of them for life. If not and all they’ve learned is how to load munitions or guard an ammo depot they will not be qualified for most jobs in the real world. For some the military is no more than a babysitting service. They’re given simple jobs and every decision is made for them. This is a bad job market for a lot of people. For some ex military it is worse because they’re not very bright, they’ve learned no transferable skills and they don’t know how to be self sufficient.

  • Mary Theresa

    I watched with much interest the PBS broadcast. The lady asked us to log in if we wanted to share out opinions. I am a 54 year old white female Veteran of the United States Navy. I was “just” a waitress before I joined the military; I had no means of attending college; no means of moving; or traveling. I took a big leap of faith and signed up. I barely made the WEIGHT qualification in 1978, and my Recruiter was sure to feed me a big meal, prior to the official swearing in at the AFEES.
      I not only was taught Electronics, I had an innate ability with computer, a skill I never knew I had. For the first time in my life, I was given Letters of Achievement, Appreciation, and made Woman of the Year for my Command. I learned self discipline, my self esteem climbed, became confident, and felt “part of” something much bigger than myself, I worked in a field mainly with men, as most women did not qualify on the AFEES scores to be in my rating.
      The Navy sent me to college under the EEAP Program (Enlisted Educational Advancement Program) and I obtained an Associates degree. I did apply for the next step as an Officer, however I was married with a small boy, and was not chosen.
      At my last duty station, under the Clinton administration, the opportunity arose to get a “golden handshake” rather than stay in the military until retirement. I was 3/4 of the way of my 20 years, I jumped at the monetary golden handshake, and the GI Bill I would get again. I attended college for one year, to meet the requirements for Nursing College. I was selected the first time I applied to a Nursing College and it was very competitive. After two more years of college, I became a Registered Nurse. All the while “paying myself monthly what I lived on during active duty” and “raising my son as a single parent”.
        So do I think Veterans should get a break? I think as long as it is not REQUIRED by law, as in no special privileges, and the Veteran has applied for a position; consider that we are loyal, disciplined, hard working, know how to work forced overtime, know how to work as a team, no nit picking, and no job will ever exceed what we were forced to do in the military.
      For example, work your 8 hour shift. Then pull a duty day; and so whatever you are asked to do, in my case the worst was to work the back gate at NAS Barbers Point; where you could SMELL the water/waste/compound/standing in boots, for another 8 hours, in the dark, checking the windshield for decals, and ID cards, and being aware of drunk drivers etc…then going home, shower change of clothing and yes, back to an 8 hour shift. No gripping, no pity, no special treatment, you do what you are asked to do.
     Veterans, like myself often have “special needs” after serving in the military. I currently use the VA hospital in Dayton Ohio, and present my Blue Cross/Blue Shield Card at each appointment. They are taking very good care of me, better than the Primary Care Physicians I had on the “outside.”
        Knowing myself, and my co-workers, IF I WERE a business owner, I would hire a Veteran if there was something in it for me; such as the TAX Break.
       Morally I think Veterans should get the job is they qualify, simply because no one knows what we did, the hours we worked, and the stress we are put under. You would have to walk a mile in our steel toed boots, with dark socks on, then we can discuss it.
     You do not “call in sick” in the military.
    If your child is too ill for school, or day care you take “vacation” time off the books.
    If you are sick as a dog, you still put your uniform on report to work, then report to sick call.
     I was granted a Disability Rating of 30% in the Navy on discharge, Honorable.
    I worked in the private sector as a Registered Nurse, and for reasons I do not wish to discuss, was on early Retirement Disability that fought long and hard, for a Work Related Injury.
      Veterans see, hear, do things, sleep on floors, get little sleep, and still have to perform, if not for the comradeship of my co-workers it would not have been a job I would have stayed with, I fondly remember all those guys, Back when being “politically correct” was not heard of, so I fit in with them.

  • jan

    Preference and VRA Programs

    Veteran’s Employment Preference Points

    Veteran Hiring Fairs

    Veterans’ Preference

    On this page
    5 Point Preference
    10 Point Preference
    Preference Categories



    Veterans’ Preference gives eligible veterans
    preference in appointment over many other applicants. Veterans’
    preference applies, to virtually all new appointments in both the
    competitive and excepted service. Veterans’ preference does not
    guarantee veterans a job and it does not apply to internal agency
    actions such as promotions, transfers, reassignments and reinstatements.


  • Ail_hi

    I do think Vets should get preference during this time of unemployment. Although I am an unemployed certified teacher in New Orleans who has been laid off every year since the storm of 2005. I am discontent angry at times but most of all sad. However, I in no way want to every take a job that a Vet could get first. They’ve fought for my country the least I could do is to allow them to have first preference in employment. I am in a very bad situation now but if I were competing for the same job that a Vet is competing for I’d give it to the Vet and continue to believe as I am doing now that God will take care of me.
    God bless you all,

  • Sooz

    Great piece on returning Veterans and the dilemma they face with joblessness.  Of course they should be given preference, they are fighting on a daily basis for the freedom we all take for granted in this incredible country of ours.  Extending a helping hand or just shaking their hand to thank them for the job they have done would I’m sure, be most appreciated.