People often ask me which of the causes in the book I feel most strongly about. It’s an impossible question to answer. Is global warming more urgent than homelessness? Theoretically, yes. Every day when I encounter actual homeless people, no. But the issues I feel most personally worked up about at the moment are the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and the problems so many veterans and their families face when they come home. The number of veterans of the current wars who are unemployed equals the number of troops currently deployed. (The unemployment rate for vets is higher than the general population, and for returning servicewomen it’s even worse: 16%) A third of those returning face serious mental health problems like PTSD and depression. A third of homeless men are veterans, and the number of homeless vets from the current wars has increased dramatically recently. I’ve spent quite a bit of time with veterans and people working on veterans issues in the last year or so, both because of the book and because of a project I did for work. I’m also part of a group of advisors to a new social networking website for vets. I’ve heard numerous stories of young soldiers and marines reenlisting after multiple tours of duty because opportunities for work are so scarce and they feel like the only place they’ll be understood is in the military.
In the face of injury, PTSD, homelessness, joblessness, and despair, a quilt may seem like a small thing. But I’ve heard over and over again from quilters who make quilts for veterans and from veterans themselves, it’s a small thing that makes a real difference. So start a quilt top for Quilts of Valor tonight!