Dishonorable Discharge at Panera

21 thoughts on “Dishonorable Discharge at Panera”

  1. We author our own destiny. When people choose to sit, rarely do they get back up. The importance of platonic self-conception cannot be underestimated. I judge myself harshly in this regard. My first instinct is to peek beneath the circumstantial hardship of street people to the psychological/spiritual solution.
    It’s good that you gave to him.

  2. For all the elaborate public reverence for the troops, suicide is rampant in the Army among the recruits, and they mostly pay lip service to addressing it. Dishonorable discharge for a suicide attempt is consistent with this. They’re telling him he shouldn’t have screwed up his suicide. Part of the toxic tough guy culture, I suppose. Also, no one is going to make colonel by looking after the grunts.

    1. A friend of mine enlisted after he got a girl pregnant (which, hey, is what my dad did).

      He wasn’t much out of basic when he attempted to hang himself. They honorably discharged him and said his condition was a “peri-vertebral contusion” making him classified as a disabled veteran.

      But it was only about two more years before he hanged himself again- this time successfully.

      I don’t know what could have been done differently by anyone else, but I’m still angry about the whole thing.

  3. Not about homelessness but about the military in the USA (this is essentially my only experience with anything military):

    I have a niece who wanted to be an optometrist but had no money for school. So she “joined” the army so they would pay for her education (G.I. bill?). After graduating she was instantly an officer. When she arrived at boot camp she was shocked when the gate guards saluted her. She is a petite and very pretty young woman who would not appear out of place on the cover of Teen Vogue, and not very athletic. Boot camp was a picnic for her, and she really didn’t have anything negative to say about it, but she did show me pictures of her, holding various weapons and with ordinance exploding in the background.

    Now she is working as a military optometrist at JBLM and lives on base with her husband, who is a civilian and works off base. She has a multi-year commitment, and of course could be assigned overseas if things got bad, but otherwise it has been a great and –very easy, for her– path to economic success.

    Also, she says the food and everything else for sale on base, is dirt cheap.

    1. Americans are firmly opposed to “socialism” and government interference in the “free market.” But when it comes to the military and law enforcement we’re remarkably willing to provide people with free housing, free food, free medical care, free education… We’re comfortable doing this because soldiers are serving the nation. So I wonder why the entire country doesn’t enlist en masse. It’s an interesting thought experiment. Except it’s an experiment we already tried once quite successfully. It was called World War II.

      1. That generation benefited mostly from the destruction of the industrial capacity of every other nation in the world around that time.

        Even if we’d never entered the war, we would have won because of the war.

    2. I have a niece and nephew in the service — boot camp last summer. We have no history of it in our family, other than WWII draftees, two of which came back injured. But my brother’s next door neighbor is a general, and sold them on the service as a way to pay for college and learn responsibility.

      My niece sounds a lot like your niece, except she was a cross country runner like her dad, and did very well in boot camp. She was pretty and popular, and your typical clueless teen when she left. She seems to have come back a lot different, thanks to the idea that she is being given responsibility for doing something serious and important.

      Hopefully it all works out. And there isn’t another war that not all of us are behind, fighting in a place where the locals are less committed to their own futures.

  4. I’ve known a number of ex-military folks. People in the army have it the roughest after discharge. They only teach you how to use a gun, and they send you to combat where you get PTSD. When you leave, your career is at square zero. Not much private sector demand for fire-and-maneuver experience. Mental state is worsened by being outside the only community you’ve known for years. This combination has landed many people on the streets.

    Few from the air force end up in combat, so most of them don’t get PTSD. You learn to be a mechanic, so you can hit the ground running with your career after leaving the military. Ex-air force people tend to do alright.

    The people who do the best are the ones who leave with a security clearance (hard to get on your own) and take six-figure government contractor jobs where they do the same thing they did in the military.

    1. I was never in the military, but I was a principal in small engineering firm that won a pretty good defense contract once. We had to set up a secured area that we staffed with ex-army personnel with the appropriate technical training. A number of these were only 22 or 23 but had 3-5 years of military experience but did not have college degrees. They impressed me with their capabilities and maturity relative to the college grads we also hired (or how I was at their age). I find (especially as the son of a WW2 vet) that I’m inclined to respect military service, though I think Johnny’s final paragraph is probably pretty fair.

    2. It’s somewhat shocking to see this level of ignorance nowadays, so I want to respond to some points here from pumpkin.

      The Army doesn’t only teach you how to use a gun, that’s a perk of the job for most. There are supply/warehouse, drivers, mechanics (hey, just like those Air Force vets who hit the ground running!), HR people, computer/communications, various medical specialties, etc. Lots of specialties with direct correlations to the private sector.

      Your career isn’t at ground zero. There is a whole industry of military veteran recruiters who connect veterans with companies that want them. There is demand for combat arms NCOs and officers at pretty much every corporation in America.

      You have a point with the security clearance jobs, but they’re much harder to get now than a decade or so ago.

    1. I have no idea. People either find their way or they don’t. There are people in my neighborhood in San Francisco who have continued to live on the street in more or less the same spot for decades. I notice that when I’m in Japan and a few other countries there simply are no homeless people. Then again, India and parts of Latin America have even more than in the States. I’m sure there are more or less the same percentage of alcoholics and schizophrenics everywhere in the world. Some cultures do a better job of managing them.

      1. The guitar seems to indicate that he has a bit of cultural capital and wants to hang on to it. On the other hands he sounds very defeatist.

      2. Some cultures are good at helping and others are better at hiding what they don’t want to be seen. Sadly, the West is more about the latter than the former. Then again, we in the U.S. don’t put too much energy into hiding the homeless–until they are seen by people who don’t want that particular “element” in their town/area.

        1. The act of helping requires someone to understand that they need help, and to accept it. In Johnny’s story, the vet understood that he needed food, so he accepted it. That Johnny also was willing to listen to his story without preaching what he “should” be doing probably helped.

          Most of us who are mentally strong, housed, and fed would understand that he seems to need some other help too, but he may not be at the point of acknowledging it. Government or society or a concerned helper stepping in to tell him that he needs help may or may not get him there. As Johnny said…everyone walks his own path.

      3. There are homeless in Japan. Beggers too, but they tend to sit or kneel silently with a bowl in front of them. I would agree that there are far fewer than in the States, but they are most certainly there.

  5. I ask this question because I know that my response to an entreaty like this would be much less generous: If you planned to stay in the area, or if he lived in your neighborhood would you be so open and generous?

    Our experiences here of “opening up” and being welcoming have always included either drunken midnight pounding at the door or scary anger when our generosity “knew bounds” and, subsequently, theft of one kind or another.

    Are we doing it wrong? I do not have your gift with “broken people”…then again my upbringing was closer to “Leave it to Beaver” than anything else

    1. On occasion, more often than I would prefer, I’ll find a homeless person on the sidewalk in front of my building as I take out the trash or whatever. Mostly, I do nothing. But sometimes if they seem particularly in need or if I happen to have a pot of stew on the stove I’ll bring some out to them or give them an old coat I never use. Nothing bad has ever happened in response.

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