Coronavirus strikes veterans of war: “These are difficult times” but “we must fight, give it forward”

 “Freedom is not free, you have to pay for it with the blood of Americans,” recalls a former Marine. Now the pandemic has killed more than a thousand veterans, and unemployment grips many more, especially Hispanics.

Hispanic Veteran Calls on Military Affected by COVID-19 to Seek Help

By María Peña

Jesse Treviño’s war left indelible images of “innocent children” killed in Iraq and forced him to mature at one stroke when he was only 23 years old.

Now, almost two decades after the start of that conflict, this veteran of Navy soldiers uses his traumatic experience to “cultivate mental well-being.” But the coronavirus pandemic has made it all the more difficult.

The coronavirus has killed at least 1,012 veterans and infected more than 12,000 soldiers since March, in addition to leaving more than a million unemployed.

“You have to fight, give it forward, because I know that all this is going to end and there will be better times,” says Treviño, great-grandson of Mexican immigrants, in a telephone interview from his home in San Antonio (Texas).

His advice to other struggling veterans is to seek help “because they are not alone.”

He also carries his past: a photo on a dusty and faded road over time reminds him of the rigors of a war in which he lost friends and comrades-in-arms. “I never thought I was going to see innocent children dead in front of me, for me it was very difficult,” he explains, “I was never prepared for that and that was left inside, like a wound.”

“I suffered for many years, I got help and my organization helps too,” he concludes hopefully. He was able to overcome unemployment after graduating, obtained three university diplomas with the help of the Government, and in 2017 he started his own business.

His company SolutionPoint + helps organizations “cultivate mental well-being.” Bring together war veterans, police, and other instructors to run workshops and programs against homelessness, drug addiction, and other problems.

“We are living through difficult times and it is important to remember and commemorate those who have lost their lives in the name of freedom,” says Treviño as the country prepares for Memorial Weekend in honor of those killed in combat.

“I was in two wars and I lost brothers and sisters, and good friends. Freedom is not free, it must be paid for with the blood of Americans, ”he says. His mother, who raised him alone with his three brothers, suffered his shipment to Iraq in 2003 and looked for a job to occupy his mind and not think of possible bad news. “I was very sorry,” she says, but “I also remember when I came back and she gave me a big hug, she was crying but they were tears of happiness, it was a good time in my life.”

Raised in Carrizo Springs, a small Texan town near the border, in a humble family, Treviño highlights the contributions of Hispanics to the Army, and how it can also help them. “That is something of our culture, we want to do something bigger than us. We want to protect, defend our families, our land, “he says,” the government gives us opportunities that sometimes we don’t have. ”

His military service earned him a free college education for himself and his children, and to buy a house with his salary. In addition to “learning a lot”, he summarizes in “rusty” Spanish that connects him with the cultural roots of his family in Mexico.

In the United States, military service is voluntary. In 2017, there were 1.3 million active members in the four branches of the Armed Forces. 16% were of Hispanic origin, according to the Pew Research Center.

New York, May 18.- A man wearing a mask shows a message attached to his cap outside a hospital in the Greenwich sector to applaud health professionals and other essential workers amid the COVID-19 pandemic . The pandemic has spread almost everywhere in the world, where more than 318,000 people have died and more than 4.7 million have been infected.

Perhaps, this is one of the darkest Memorial Weekends in the country’s History: the coronavirus pandemic has killed more than 92,000 people in the United States since March; the Vietnam War cost some 58,000 American lives, in contrast; in Iraq some 5,500 soldiers died, and in Afghanistan about 2,500.

Added to the health crisis is unemployment due to the recession caused by the pandemic, which reached a rate of 11.8% in April among veterans , compared to 8% the previous month (the national rate is 14%, but will continue to increase in the coming weeks).

The Department of Veterans Affairs has said that, according to preliminary data, the rate of contagion of the coronavirus among African American and Hispanic veterans is higher than among other veterans.

Rosy Maury, director at the  Syracuse University Institute for Veterans and Military Families (IVMF) , told Telemundo News that unemployment among veterans is hitting women, youth and minorities the hardest. So he estimates that some 121,000 Hispanic soldiers lost their jobs last month.

“But it is not just an economic issue, although employment is a big component. We have also seen an increase in demand for services for their communities, for childcare, and for their mental health, ”he added.

Since 2007, IVMF programs have helped more than 132,000 military families. And while there are many community organizations that also provide assistance, it is the Department of Veterans Affairs that has the most capacity and resources, especially the disabled, Maury says.

Treviño believes that the country is going through a political polarization that causes “a lot of disgust among the people”, but sends a message of optimism: “We are well separated, more than ever, but we have this great country, and I have to believe that the country, which the entire government is working for the good of all. Nothing would be possible without the veterans who have given their lives for this country, and we must remember it. ”

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