15 Episodes of The West Wing We Need Now More Than Ever

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1.10 In Excelsis Deo

In the first season, for their first Christmas episode, the show tackled the issue of a homeless veteran, who died alone, unknown and wearing a coat that Toby once donated to charity. It struck a chord with Toby, who arranged for the man to have a proper burial, and to learn more about him, the life he led and his service. He goes to a homeless community, asking around is Walter had any family – and finds his brother, whom he tells about Walter and the services he’s arranging.

And later, when President Bartlet finds out that Toby did this using the president’s name (and power with it), he questions him and Toby is firm – that he’s not afraid it will bring every homeless veteran out of the woodwork (like the president asks) but that he instead hopes it will.

It speaks volumes to the treatment of veterans and the homeless population, but more so to the overlap of the two, and the lack of respect so many of them have upon homecoming. This man, a hero who served his country, died alone, cold on the streets and if it weren’t for Toby, for whatever fate brought him to this man’s story, he wouldn’t have gotten the respectful goodbye and burial he deserved.

To this day, veterans lack the respect, the care, the mental illness treatments, physical therapy and even assistance they so desperately deserve and often need. We commend their heroism, we praise them – and then we don’t help.

It’s a harrowing message, and we have self reflecting to do.