Helping Iraq, Afghanistan vets to find a home in civilian life

In reference to the article, "Back from Iraq - and suddenly out on the streets": As a former hospital corpsman in the US Navy, I can tell you from firsthand experience that the biggest cause of the homeless problem is finding employment.

When I first left the Navy, married with three children, I wasn't concerned about finding a job because my experience in the military earned me many qualifications.

I had two years of medical experience while aboard an aircraft carrier and two years under my belt at the Pediatrics Clinic at the Naval Hospital in Jacksonville, Fla. I had also been certified in basic life support, advanced life support, and pediatric advanced life support certified - all through the American Heart Association.

Unfortunately, when I left the Navy I ran into a brick wall. None of my experience meant anything in the outside world; my certifications were worthless, and I didn't even know where to begin to look for help in finding a job.

If we want to help the veterans of this country, we need to devise a system to move their military experience over to civilian experience. Even more important, there should be exit interviews that give them the information they need to pursue a career outside of the military, as well as information on places where help can be obtained.
Christopher Dann
Port Orange, Fla.

I served in Iraq during the ground war in the spring of 2003, and I am currently serving in Afghanistan. I was most disturbed that soldiers experiencing misfortune when returning home from overseas deployments felt like victims.

First, although many National Guard members and reservists take a pay cut on deployment, I have met very few that were not able to save money.

That goes for everyone from college students to bank managers, single or married. I do recognize, however, that there is more strain on a family.

Soldiers don't pay for food, insurance, or gas; moreover, basic pay for housing almost always covers a full mortgage. Secondly, anyone who had a full-time civilian job will have it waiting when they return (except in the most extreme cases). It is federal law.

Most saddening about this report, however, is the number of people reporting depression - many of whom may have never seen combat. Most women, for instance, are not even allowed to be in forward areas.

This is not to say they may not have been involved in some awful situations or that the stress is not great, but why are these numbers so much worse than Vietnam?

I'm not trying to be insensitive or suggest I have the answers, but I do feel individuals need to be responsible enough to seek help when they need it and take the lead to move forward.
Sgt. Alan StageInver
Grove Heights, Minn.

The fine print on antidepressant drugs

A key point is mentioned but not emphasized in the Feb. 11 article " 'Zoloft defense' tests whether pills are guilty": Not until the 14th paragraph are we informed that the murder took place while the defendant was making the transition from Paxil to Zoloft.

A lawsuit in 2002 against the maker of Paxil (GlaxoSmithKline) prompted a more detailed warning label about the severe effects associated with discontinuing the use of Paxil, including an increase in anxiety and agitation.

For someone already suffering from those conditions, withdrawal can prove disastrous.

Therefore, the defense is more adequately described by the absence of Paxil than the presence of Zoloft.
Amy Trojanowski
St. Paul, Minn.

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