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Homeless Iraq War vet begs for change on subway

[flv:http://pavementpieces.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/12/VetFinal.flv http://pavementpieces.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/12/VetFinal.jpg 320 240]

While serving in the Army in Iraq, Mark Anderson, of Brooklyn, believed he was fulfilling a lifelong dream of helping his country. When Anderson returned to New York, the dream quickly spiraled into a nightmare of homelessness and mental illness.

“I’ve been homeless for over a year,” Anderson said. “Right now my main problem is housing. I got back from Iraq, and I’ve got nowhere to live. It ain’t right.”

Now Anderson, 38, survives only on the good will of New York’s straphangers. Every day he is on the subway, begging strangers for money.

“In order for me to make ends meet, I got to get on the train and ask people to help me until I get my benefits,” Anderson said. “On average, I make about $50 after being on the train for four hours. That’s enough for food, but that’s about it. A cheap hotel up in Harlem costs more a night than that.”

There are more than 200,000 veterans living on streets and in shelters across the country. Many of those veterans also suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, a mental illness that affects people exposed to extreme violence. Military combat is one of the leading causes of the disorder. Approximately 600,000 veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan suffer from PTSD, according to Army statistics.

”People join the military for a lot of different reasons, but one of the reasons they join is because the economy is not great. While they’re in the military, there is a level of stability,” said Jose Vasquez, Secretary for Iraq Veterans Against the War. “If you leave the military and you’re a combat veteran with PTSD, then you go back into an environment that kind of led you to join the military in the first place. So there’s not really a lot of options.”

Anderson, like so many other homeless veterans, suffers from PTSD. He takes three different medications to ease the symptoms, and he has gone to a number of support groups. But living on the streets, he said, has taken a toll on his mental health that no medication can fix.

“I went to Iraq, and I saw a lot of things I wasn’t prepared to see. I dealt with a lot of emotional things that I wasn’t ready to deal with,” Anderson said. “It’s seeing people get bombed up and just not knowing if you’re going to live one day to the next.”

Anderson is proud of his time in the military, but he is angered by the circumstances that took him from soldier to beggar.

“I just want to be a productive member of society,” Anderson said. “But this is just making my depression worse.”

13 Comments

  1. Pingback: This ain’t Hell, but you can see it from here » Blog Archive » Phony soldiers begging in NYC?

  2. I find this hard to believe on several levels.

    First and foremost, if one is wounded and still not able to function in the civilian world, he should have been in the Traumatic Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance (TSGLI)
    https://www.hrc.army.mil/site/crsc/tsgli/index.html

    I have friends who still are recieving payments and treatment 4 years later. In addition he would have been Medically Retired and be recieving monthly compensation. One friend suffered a Heart Attack in country and was medically retired and recieves monthly checks. Since returning in Nov 2005 I have been inundated with requests from the VA, and its councilors trying to help me, even though my injuries were comparitively light.

    Secondly he spent a 19 Month tour in Iraq? I find that Very Hard to Believe, since the Longest Tour was 18 Months by a Wisconsin based National Guard unit (34th BCT) Most averaged 12-15 months. Guard is now down to 10 Months or less deployed.

    Did ANYONE Verify his story? I ask as a former member of My Unit (1st Bn, 69th Infantry Regiment (NYARNG) claims he was a Sgt(He wasn’t), claims he was in Iraq (He wasn’t, yet still wears his IVAW t-Shirt) and claims he worked at Ground Zero for Months with the unit. The truth is he was kicked out of the Army months before 9-11 for chronic A.W.O.L., was apprehended and thrown out of the secure zone on 9-12.

    Another Junior NCO I knew made wild claims why he cant work intimating he was poisoned by Depleted Uranium and we were all told we were poisoned while in Baghdad. Truth, no such incident ever happened, and no one from the unit will associate with him. Numerous Soldiers who contacted the Journalist to refute his claims were given any voice, as it doesnt fit the Media viewpoint.

    If I claim I’m a Pornstar Astronaut, does it make it true?

  3. I agree with Sean. His story is a bit fishy. Sounds more like he is pulling an Eddie Murphy in Trading Spaces. I know it is a sad fact that some homeless are veterans, but its also a sad fact that many homeless will pretend to be veterans to get sympathy.

  4. So, you couldn’t ask him what unit he was with? Hey, I served 78 Months in IRAQ and got a ton of medals, I am a fighter pilot too, and a SEAL… Want to interview me? Journalism is DEAD!!

  5. Pacific_waters says:

    Did the reporter check the facts? Where is his DD214? Where did he separate? What units was he in and cman anybody remember him? Sounds like a bunch of bull to me. At least he didn’t claim to be a SEAL or Green Beret.

  6. Not sure if I concur but thank u for the information By the way, can I contact you about your blog?

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  8. I dont usually comment, but after reading through so much info I had to say thanks!

  9. Super nice this is going to my collections

  10. lol, Eddie is so funny! I love him.

  11. It’s time to admit the truth: the war in Iraq is due to oil and government contracts to private companies, not knocking down the Towers and killing so many Americans. The White House knew these terrorists were in the country and did NOTHING! They waste time and money chasing after Mexican illigals who do us no phyiscal harm, and are doing jobs most American lazy pelple will not lower themselves to do! QUIT LYING TO THE AMERICAN PEOPLE ABOUT why we are in Iraq! We have oil resources here in American we could appropriate but for the goody two shoes who are on the side of minows, the gnats, the rats and the worms on the earth and care nothing about the people. Save the Whales, sacrifice the people! This country is being led by IDIOTS who are only interested in lining their pockets. WANT TO BE RICH? BECOME A CONGRESSMAN!

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