Left Coast Voices

"I would hurl words into the darkness and wait for an echo. If an echo sounded, no matter how faintly, I would send other words to tell, to march, to fight." Richard Wright, American Hunger

Archive for the tag “civilian life”

Veterans Sustainable Agriculture Training

My latest novel, Unwanted Heroes, highlights how many of our war veterans fail to cope with returning to civilian life and the fast-developing urban centers in particular.

Heroes Low Res Finished Cover 11.18

Colin Archipley, a decorated Marine Corps infantry sergeant and his wife, Karen, run a small, organic farm, Archis Acres, near Valley Center, California, where they offer a program called: Veterans Sustainable Agriculture Training (VSAT). The idea is to use agriculture as a transitional period between army/marines and civilian life.

In addition to learning how to work the land in a sustainable way, the men and women receive lectures about various niche business options for the modern small-holdings farmer. Their goal is to revitalize the rural farming industry by providing tools for young people who understand discipline and hard work.

There are two challenges being addressed here. One is the reabsorption of soldiers into civilian life, and the other is to provide a meaningful and economically viable option for the returning soldier.

Even if these young men and women do not continue to work as farmers, the work itself can be extremely grounding. On my kibbutz, (an intentional community) we used to bring groups of children, traumatized from bombings and other acts of terror, to the kibbutz and they would help us make bricks out of a clay-like material that would later be used for experiments in alternative building. It was clear how calming and grounding such work could be.

Archi’s Acres is a great program, offering the opportunity for those who gave years of their life in service to find a meaningful and sustainable life. If you would like to consider a small gift to help fund the initiative, please click here.  Helping turn swords into plowshares is a positive step forward.


Alon Shalev writes social justice-themed novels and YA epic fantasy. He swears there is a connection. His latest books include: Unwanted Heroes and At The Walls Of Galbrieth. Alon tweets at @alonshalevsf and @elfwriter.




Doesn’t Shooting Osama bin Laden Deserve A Pension?

When I saw all the coverage regarding the U.S. Navy SEAL who shot and killed Osama bin Laden, I assumed we are in for some hyperbole. But I soon realized that what he is now experiencing what I have been writing about for some time, and what was the inspiration in writing Unwanted Heroes.

Heroes Low Res Finished Cover 11.18

The former SEAL who is identified as The Shooter’ claims in an interview with Esquire, that the U.S. government has abandoned him since he left the military last fall. His drive to spotlight how some of the U.S. military’s most accomplished soldiers are treated once they return to civilian life, is sad and a shame. He received no money for the interview.

But I wish to stress that whether you killed the world’s most-wanted terrorist or were any other cog in our huge military machine the issues of pension, health care, and protection for himself and his family, are the same. 

“…my health care for me and my family stopped. I asked if there was some transition from my Tricare to Blue Cross Blue Shield. They said no. You’re out of the service, your coverage is over. Thanks for your 16 years. Go f— yourself.”

It seems like the military did not appreciate “The Shooter” leaving the military four years  before the 20-year requirement for retirement benefits. They invested considerable time and money into training him and could have expected a few more missions as the return on investment.

Esquire understands that “the government provides 180 days of transitional health care benefits, but the Shooter was ineligible because he did not agree to remain on active duty in a support role or become a “reservist.” The magazine optimistically suggests that his weight will be at least eight months, though we know this can be much longer.

The hyperbole surrounding this SEAL is important. Leveraging his status to highlight the way we fail our soldiers when they return is an opportunity no activist would turn away from. As I mentioned, I hope he receives what he needs and in a timely fashion. But I also hope it will serve all army veterans and their need for swift help transitioning into civilian life.

When a young man or woman makes the decision to serve his/her country, s/he and their family need to understand that their country will stand by them and not discard them as a resource on a conveyor belt.


Alon Shalev writes social justice-themed novels and YA epic fantasy. He swears there is a connection. His latest books include: Unwanted Heroes and At The Walls Of Galbrieth. Alon tweets at @alonshalevsf and @elfwriter.  

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