Life as a veteran, then and now

May 25, 2012

Miles Doornbos

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As Memorial Day approaches, as families pack their cars with beach blankets and light lunches, it’s important to reflect on what the day actually means. There seems to be a dual narrative running in the story of our returning veterans. On one hand, there are the platitudes; the flags and bumper stickers, the ceremonies and parades. But, underneath there is a starker reality. We support our troops with words, but many are struggling to find resources away from the battlefield.

At first glance, this seems a far cry from veteran life following World War II, when many returning soldiers, dubbed “The Greatest Generation”, were able to achieve the American Dream through the help of the G.I. Bill. What’s changed? When did a house in the suburbs turn to sleeping on the street? When did reliable employment become steady unemployment? When did The Greatest Generation become The Forgotten Generation?

On Friday's Afternoon Shift, we talk about the veteran experience with two men who have lived it. Steve Lulofs is a former Army Reserve specialist who served in Iraq from 2003-2005. Since returning home, Steve has become a leader in Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, coordinating events in Chicago and helping guide other veterans back into their lives at home.

Ed Fizer is a former Marine who fought in WWII, one of the first African-Americans to train at the fully segregated Camp Lejeune in North Carolina. He’ll be receiving the Congressional Gold Medal in June, along with 15 others who served alongside him.

Together, Ed and Steve discuss what it means, and has meant, to be a veteran in America. How has that word changed, for better and worse, in the years between WWII and Iraq? And how can we fully and effectively honor those who have given their lives, literally and figuratively, for the country?