Monday evening I had time to sit down to watch my favorite news program on TV: the PBS Newshour. One of the segments, “How the Iraq War Changed a Generation of Veterans“ was about returning veterans and their experiences. Jeffrey Brown interviewed four Iraq veterans.
One of the themes they discussed was the disconnect between the general population and veterans. Less than 1% of our population has carried the direct burden of the Iraq war. One particular comment by Marine Major P.K. Ewing hit home.
JEFFREY BROWN: And what do you think about this question of shared sacrifice, or lack of it, the disconnect that we were talking about between those who served and the rest of the country?
MAJ. P.K. EWING: I would agree there is a great deal of that.
I think it’s evidenced by the fact that, oftentimes, the only acknowledgment I get is somebody handing me a handshake and saying, “Thank you for your service.”
And I personally feel, if you are really grateful, go do something for a vet. Go volunteer for a charity. Go start one. Go help in some capacity. So, I do feel that disconnect.
“Go Do Something”
Just before Christmas I received an e-mail from a local bicycle advocate. She was passing an idea one of her colleagues had.
In her parting shot, she left me with an idea that I’d like to submit to you. Austin’s population of disabled vets is growing rapidly and many are becoming shut-ins as they struggle with PTSD, TBI and other disabilities. The traditional meeting places like VFW’s are not necessarily the right environment for those on medications, etc. The idea is to create veteran-only shop hours at YBP, similar to Ladybike in that it is run by veterans and caters to the needs of veterans. A safe, drop-in environment with people that understand their experiences, where they can volunteer and be productive in the community while being exposed to the benefits of cycling for themselves and our entire community.
Wow. I was knocked over. What an awesome idea. I immediately saw the utility of something like this.
- bicycle maintenance/volunteering can be therapeutic
- learning bicycle maintenance can be vocational
- opportunity to procure inexpensive transportation either through our earn-a-bike program or through direct donations
We do targeted closed shops like Lady Bike. This provides a welcoming, non-threatening environment to new users of the shop, especially to people not traditionally comfortable with mechanics. Some people only attend these shops; some gain confidence and comfort and join us in regular open or volunteer shops. Some have even joined the collective and have become shop coordinators.
Just An Idea
So far this is just an idea. I’ve made some inquiries with some people who do therapy with PTSD and TBI vets. Now I need to make some connections with Iraq/Afghan vets that might be interested. Then I can get a sense for the need/interest.
If you know a veteran or somebody who works with them in the Austin area, please pass this idea on. They can either contact me directly or e-mail/visit the Yellow Bike Project.