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Bruce Elfant

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Notebook Archives



Constable's Notebook - November 2009

Ninety-one years ago on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month World War I, then referred to as “the war to end all wars”, ended with the surrender of Germany. A year later President Woodrow Wilson recognized November 11th as Armistice Day when he proclaimed that “the reflections of Armistice day will be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service.” November 11th was declared a legal holiday by Congress in 1938. In 1954 President Eisenhower in order to ensure proper observance of all Veterans, declared November 11th as Veterans Day.

This Veteran’s Day will be observed at a time when the United States is engaged in two wars – one that is hopefully winding down and the other that may yet intensify. While many Americans will participate in parades and ceremonies to honor those who have volunteered to serve in the U.S. armed forces, hundreds of thousands of veterans will sleep on the streets, sit in jails and be confined to mental institutions as a result of the physical and mental injuries they received while serving our country.

Last year I reported on the emergence of the Veterans Intervention Project (VIP) (co-chaired by Constable Maria Canchola and myself) that includes federal, state and local agencies and Veterans organizations in order to better understand the needs and impacts of Veterans returning to Travis County. We know many Veterans are profoundly impacted by their military experience. The Journal of Internal Medicine reports that as many as 30 percent of returning Veterans suffer from mental illness including Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). This makes transitioning back to civilian life far more difficult. A recent Veterans Intervention Project found that on average, 150 Veterans sit in the Travis County jail at any given time. During one 90 day period, 679 charges were filed against 458 Veterans. One third of all charges filed were for DWI, possession, delivery of a controlled substance, public intoxication and vehicular manslaughter. Other charges included assault, sexual assault and kidnapping. About two-thirds of arrested Veterans are eligible for Veterans Administration services but for a variety of reasons have not requested them. Other Veterans are not eligible and have few places to turn for assistance.

The Veterans Intervention Project is working to establish a process where Travis County Jail, court, Veterans Administration officials and others work together to identify and address mental health, substance abuse and other issues that prevent many returning Veterans from being able to successfully reintegrate into civilian life. Former Congressman Nick Lampson said, “We should do more than sing the praises of the bravery and patriotism that our veterans have embodied in the past. We should take this opportunity to re-evaluate how we are treating our veterans in the present.” This Veterans Day Travis County citizens can be proud that as we honor Veterans’ service abroad we are working harder to help them when they come back home.



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