Monday 26 April 2004

Home From Iraq, and Without a Home

This is how much governments care about the patriotic men and women who answer the call to arms. It's fucking sick! You give up your life, do things that give you nightmares, live through hell and then get shafted at the end of it and end up homeless. Nice. This is why wars happen.

Uncle Sam wants YOU to die for big business His is how Nicole Goodwin travels these days: with her 1-year-old daughter pressed to her chest in a Snugli, a heavy backpack strapped across her shoulders, and a baby stroller crammed with as many bags of clothes and diapers as it can hold. When you are a homeless young mother, these are the things you carry.

And tucked away somewhere are the documents attesting to Ms. Goodwin's recent honorable discharge from the United States Army, as well as Baghdad memories that are still fresh.

Two months ago, she returned to Bronx circumstances that were no less difficult than when she had left them three years earlier; no yellow ribbons greeted her. Now, every day, she soldiers on to find a residence where the rent is not covered by in-kind payments of late-night bus rides to shelters and early-morning rousting. All the while, she keeps in mind the acronym she learned in the Army: Leadership. L is for loyalty; D for duty; R for respect; S for selfless service; H for honor; P for personal courage. "And I is my favorite," she says. "It's integrity."

On Thursday morning, Ms. Goodwin wheeled her heavy-duty stroller into the Lower Manhattan office of the Coalition for the Homeless, a nonprofit organization that is trying to help her. For the last couple of nights it has put her and her nuzzling daughter, Shylah, up in a hotel.

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