DECEMBER 12, 1944
WASHINGTON, Monday—The other night I met the 30 students who are now taking the five months' course at American University. They are disabled veterans and have been carefully chosen by the Veterans' Bureau for the particular work which they will do. They are now receiving their training under a Veterans' Bureau program, and will serve in hospitals as the first contact for veterans returning to civilian life.
They told me a number of things which I would like to pass on to you. They said they wished that the public would remember how many young boys have already been wounded and are now retuning to civilian life after months in the hospital. This means that when you see a boy in civilian clothes who looks to you of draft age, you must not jump to the conclusion that he is evading military service. One boy told me that a serviceman had taunted him for not being in service, when the boy had just been released after more than 20 moths in the hospital.
Another boy, the calf of whose leg had been shot off in battle, said that the man who shined his shoes while he was still in uniform said to him: "It's funny that they would take you into the army with that kind of a leg." It never seemed to dawn upon him that the boy was suffering from wounds received in battle."
The fact of the matter is that this is so completely new to us that we don't stop to think when we look at a young man, that he might be back in civilian clothes because he had served our cause to the limit of his ability. We have not grown accustomed to the realization that we now have a job to do in serving him and helping him back to normal life in our communities again.
All of us should familiarize ourselves with the pin which discharged servicemen have the right to wear. The law reads that in order to buy these pins you must show your discharge papers, but I believe here in the east there is not always the insistence on this safeguard. It should be rigidly followed, for every boy wearing that pin is entitled to our consideration. For all we know, he may not be able to stand in street cars and in trains. He should be allowed to go ahead of us wherever we have to wait in line.
There was an article published not long ago in the Woman's Home Companion about a returning flier, which every citizen should read. It tells you a little of the peculiar strains and stresses men undergo in coming back to civilian life. There is a book by Dr. George K. Pratt, entitled "Soldier to Civilian," which all of us should read.
Yesterday afternoon the disabled veterans organization brought another group of approximately 100 veterans from Walter Reed hospital to see the White House and have tea after the football game. Early in the afternoon I visited the Chapel Oaks housing project, about which I will tell you more tomorrow.