We fail to serve those who served us

The Baltimore Sun's coverage of Charles Whittington's suspension from the Community College of Baltimore County ("Campus Bars Veteran over Combat Controversy," Nov. 22) is a painful example of our failure as a community to serve those who have served our country.

Eloquently, painfully and without hesitation, Mr. Wittington wrote of his feelings as a combat veteran in his college essay. He reminded the readers that he was lawfully trained to kill. He reminded them that he didn't leave that training behind in Iraq and that he did not receive training to handle the "stress and addictions" of war. In short, he spoke the truth — about war and about his experience as a soldier and a veteran. His instructor gave him an A; the college barred him.

According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, 45 percent of veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan who sought treatment at VA hospitals between 2002 and 2008 sought treatment for mental conditions. The most common affliction was post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The Army gave this diagnosis to Mr. Wittington in 2008, and he was receiving treatment at the time the school barred him.

PTSD is also one of the leading causes of homelessness among veterans. Homelessness is also likely with loss of a supportive network — family, friends, job and, yes, educational opportunities.

Let's not contribute to the trauma our veterans have endured by making them unwelcome in the institutions that are supposed to provide support. We can do better as a community by looking at the truths in our society and responding with care.

Antonia K. Fasanelli, Baltimore

The writer is executive director of the Homeless Persons Representation Project.

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