Veterans have fought for the country without asking why. When they come home, it is shameful the way they are treated and the support they get. CNN created an iReport.com project to interview these heroes. Katie Hawkins-Gaar, an Associate Producer at CNN presents this telling article. Click here for the full CNN article.
In Kingwood, Texas, software developer Egberto Willies spoke with 34-year-old veteran Paul Rodriguez. Willies met Rodriguez through a mutual friend. The former Navy corpsman happens to live just a few blocks away.
Willies listened to Rodriguez talk for nearly two hours about his time in Iraq, his return home in 2005 and the struggles he faces as a veteran. Rodriguez suffered a brain injury during combat and shared painful stories of adjusting to civilian life.
"I used to be the life of the party," said Rodriguez, who used to freelance as a radio disc jockey. Now, he says, he's more serious and tense in social situations.
Rodriguez shared a particularly touching story about a Thanksgiving that he spent alone in his bedroom, rather than visiting with family.
"You don't know how to interact with people. It's kind of like being a foreigner," he said. "In your own home," added Willies, finishing the thought. iReport.com: Watch as Willies and Rodriguez interact
For Willies, the conversation was so powerful that it "gave me a new cause in life." A longtime supporter of health care reform, Willies is now interested in veterans' benefits as well.
In fact, a week after meeting Rodriguez, the avid iReporter interviewed another veteran at a recent health care rally in Houston, Texas. Missy Rothe, who served in both the Gulf War and war in Iraq, was happy to answer Willies' questions.
After speaking to Rodriguez and Rothe, Willies observed that while former servicemen and women are grateful for government support, "most believe they are taken for granted by employees of the VA or the country as a whole."
"As a country, we are all talk when it comes to honoring and caring for our veterans," Willies said.