Vietnam Revisited

By: Dave Rogers

Though generations apart, veterans of the Vietnam War and current wars share many things in common when it comes to life after service, like communities that don’t honor them as much as they should, a failing healthcare system, and a struggle to make ends meet.

Don’t get me wrong, some things have gotten better over time. Soldiers, Sailors and Airmen of today are definitely treated better than those who came home from the Vietnam War, but the divide is not that great in other areas.

After service, the job market is not as abundant for those who served. Many, thinking that their training in the military will help them find jobs, only come out to find advanced degrees take precedence over years of on-the-job training, working and learning. Others are finding that their civilian markets are over-saturated with workers and veterans need to go back to school to find another career path. Then there are those like Infantry Soldiers who find there is little to no job path when they enter the civilian world. Sadly, out of the almost two million Post 9/11 veterans eligible to use the GI Bill, only about one third have actually taken advantage of it.

The worst issue is probably healthcare; currently the VA only enrolls about 32% of veterans who leave the military, leaving hundreds of thousands of veterans in need of better medical treatment. What most veterans don’t know is that enrollment in the VA is more than just healthcare; enrollment also includes education, housing and other benefits that veterans need for themselves and their families.

Current soldiers are not the only ones with these problems; 30% of Vietnam Veterans have not received any care from the VA, many of whom are women and support staff. About 32% of veterans who live in Suffolk County are homeless, in transitional housing, or in shelters. About 20% of them are Vietnam Era Veterans. The leading cause of homelessness for veterans is alcohol and drug related issues that stem from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

We hear the numbers all the time. 22 veterans take their lives every day, but what that number does not tell you is that 14 of them do not have access to the VA or any kind of medical care.  Veterans are not given the information they need to get the proper help. Using New York as an example, every major area of New York has service officers. Some work for the state, some for the county, others for the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) and the American Legion (AL). Each of these service officers are there to help veterans find and receive the benefits they need, free of charge.

Besides service officers, the VFW and the AL are great resources for veterans to use. Veterans must get involved in their communities and help structure legislation for the future. The VFW and the AL are two of the oldest veteran organizations in the U.S., and they are the only two organizations that have legislative groups in each state that go to their state capital and to Washington DC to fight for veterans’ rights and benefits. Veterans must have a hand in reclaiming their civilian lives after separating from service, but first they need clear access to the benefits due them. Basic human necessities are denied so many veterans who served their country. Vietnam Veterans deserved better than they got and today’s service men and women deserve better too.

Published by daves-studio

I truely believe that "Even ordinary life can be immortilized through art". I have always been awed by the mystery of how people are connected and for most of my life as an artist I have looked for new ways to express what was inside of me, what I was feeling and how I wanted people to view and understand what I wanted to say. This caused me to restrict my art to forms that others could understand. I was speaking to the masses, but I was not using my own voice. Over time I realized that it was not so important weather people truly understood what I was saying but rather that I was speaking so I started to look for the way to think out loud and be heard and have found that voice in papercutting. My work is a mixture of Eastern and Western Art that I started after a visit to China in 2004. while there I discovered the ancient and demanding art of Chinese paper cutting and line drawing. On my return from China I began to make connections between the craft of paper cutting and my years as a soldier. The results of this unusual connection have been beautiful two and three dimentional metaphors of the importance of time and the fragility of life and democracy. Paper cutting itself can be found in many cultures and just like in China those cultures for the most part have thought of it as a decorative or folk art, few artists have explored the idea of using this form of art in a more substantive way. It is part of what has attracted me to papercutting in the first place. While the beauty of paper cutting was appealing, more appealing was the idea of using this fragile material to represent serious and even realistic ideas. The process that I use for my paper structures is the same as found in traditional Chinese paper cutting. What is different is the paper, the way it is displayed and the topics talked about in the art. It is these differences in the works that make them stand out from other forms of paper cutting and structures. Instead of using traditional types of paper for papercutting I have made the cuttings out of aluminum or mirror paper. The paper was chosen for its reflective properties, not just for making the art brighter but for the ability of the viewer to see reflections of themselves in the art, showing a connection between the viewers and the subjects in the work. While most paper cutting are laid flat on the board these works are placed between two pieces of glass in the front of the frame allowing the light to cast shadows on the background, making these papercutting sculptures of art. The other aspect of this work that is different from traditional paper cutting is that each piece is individually designed and not mass produced. This is an important aspect of my work as it is about keeping the appeal of POP art while reducing the images to singular forms. My hope for the future is to continue to explore ways to bridge the techniques and styles of paper cutting and western ideals of art. Not just as a way for me to produce my art but as a way to communicate western ideas in Asia and Asian ideas in the West. For art is the only true international language that all people no matter where they come from can appreciate, and it is through art that we can learn about other cultures beyond mere words.

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