Homeless Veterans: They Deserve Better
Serving my country was a life-changing experience for me. It was during those years that I realized the importance of commitment, dedication, honor, and discipline. I have never laughed so much; nor have I ever prayed so much. I made life-long friends. The leaders and heroes I served with helped shape me into the man I am today. I feel honored to have been a part of such a great tradition and grateful to others who have walked the same path. Thank you!— Steve Mariboli
Fortunately, my Father was never forced to be homeless
This is not a glamorous topic. It is not catchy or cute or clever. But it is a serious, haunting problem that involves every American.
Traditionally, we have parades and speeches for our Veterans who have given their lives in service to their country or who are presently serving on Memorial Day and Veteran's Day. Usually a sea of Red, White, and Blue can be seen across our land on those occasions. We pause and give a nod to our Veteran Brothers and Sisters and then move on with our lives.
This token acknowledgment of their service and sacrifice is not good enough. It is a beginning. But it is not good enough. It cannot and should not stop there. We should honor our veterans on a daily basis. To do so we can take steps to insure that they come home from service in foreign lands to a job and a home, at least to those two things.
Our Veterans deserve better than to find themselves jobless, with no medical care, and no home. Families destroyed because those who have answered the call to serve are not treated as they should be when they return home.
While we can't begin to repay the debt we owe our veterans for their brave service, we can certainly take steps to ease the physical, psychological and financial hardships they may be experiencing.— Kirsten Gillibrand
My personal story about being homeless
Being homeless as a private citizen with my daughter and grandson gave us firsthand knowledge into what it feels like. The way you are treated, your value, your access to services and medical care are extremely limited if not totally unavailable.
It was an humbling time and taught me to understand and feel the compassion for those who are also in this situation.
Sleeping in boxes
The National Coalition on the Homeless states that on any given night at least 131, 000 Veterans are sleeping in boxes, under overpasses, on the side of streets, in alleyways. Many are ill or drug dependent and are unable to receive any kind of care. This is shameful.
Regardless of how we view our participation in wars on foreign soil, we still have a responsibility to see that our Veterans are treated well.
"The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) says the nation's homeless veterans are mostly males (four percent are females). The vast majority is single, most come from poor, disadvantaged communities, 45 percent suffer from mental illness, and half have substance abuse problems. America’s homeless veterans have served in World War II, Korean War, Cold War, Vietnam War, Grenada, Panama, Lebanon, Operation Enduring Freedom (Afghanistan), Operation Iraqi Freedom, or the military’s anti-drug cultivation efforts in South America. 47 per cent of homeless veterans served during the Vietnam Era. More than 67 per cent served our country for at least three years and 33 per cent were stationed in a war zone."
The sacrifices made by veterans and their willingness to fight in defense of our nation merit our deep respect and praise - and to the best in benefits and medical care.— Sue Kelly
Statistics concerning Homeless Veterans
23% of homeless population are veterans
33% of male homeless population are veterans
47% Vietnam Era
67% served three or more years
33% stationed in war zone
25% have used VA Homeless Services
85% completed high school/GED, compared to 56% of non-veterans
89% received Honorable Discharge
79% reside in central cities
16% reside in suburban areas
5% reside in rural areas
76% experience alcohol, drug, or mental health problems" (http://www.nationalhomeless.org/factsheets/veterans.html)
Support is needed.
Why is care not given??
One reason could be is the person needing help is so fragile emotionally that without someone to physically take them to receive this help it may not happen. It is difficult at best to jump through the hoops that are often required when seeking help from large agencies. But it is a monumental task when you are physically or emotionally shattered.
Why can it not happen as our men and women come home? Is it not possible for a transition plan to be in place before they sever ties with their branch of service?
"If you are a Veteran who has lost your home, receive the support you’ve earned to get back on your feet. Contact VA’s National Call Center for Homeless Veterans at 1-877-4AID-VET (1-877-424-3838) to speak to a trained VA responder. The hotline and online chat are free and neither VA registration nor enrollment in VA healthcare is required to use either service.
Government website US Dept of Veteran's Affairs homeless veterans
A remarkable lady, Moina Michael wrote a poem that is often sung in honor of Veterans.
We Shall Keep the Faith
"Oh! you who sleep in Flanders Fields,
Sleep sweet - to rise anew!
We caught the torch you threw
And holding high, we keep the Faith
With All who died.
We cherish, too, the poppy red
That grows on fields where valor led;
It seems to signal to the skies
That blood of heroes never dies,
But lends a lustre to the red
Of the flower that blooms above the dead
In Flanders Fields.
And now the Torch and Poppy Red
We wear in honor of our dead.
Fear not that ye have died for naught;
We'll teach the lesson that ye wrought
In Flanders Fields.
In Flanders Fields we fought"
The idea came to her to wear a poppy and to encourage others to do so. Out of that came the idea to sell them and give the money to service men in need. Each year I buy one and hang int on my rear view mirror. There it stays till the next Memorial Day. I have not seen anyone selling them this year.
How to Make a Difference and What is Available
To make a difference for our Veterans, we need to let it be known to our legislators that we demand they be treated well when they return home from service in a foreign land. Write to them, call them, go see them if possible, and let it be known that you demand better treatment for our service men and women.
The Veteran's Administration website explains services that are available for Veterans. They include: opportunities to return to work, safe housing, health care, and mental health services. By going to the website's link provided, it is possible to find out how to access these services and to find out what each offers.
It has been my experience that often when it is necessary to find help through agencies there is often a lot of hassle involved. I am not trying to cast a negative light on the VA as I do not know how easy or how difficult it will be for a Veteran to receive help once they contact these agencies. The question just comes to my mind that if this agency is there and so ready to help why are there still so many homeless Veterans? The answer to that question could be multiple.
Points of Interest about Memorial Day
A few points of interest about celebrating Memorial Day---one of the few days we honor our Veterans...
- On the Thursday prior to Memorial Day the 3rd US Infantry places flags on the over 260,000 Grave sites at Arlington cemetery. Some of those who carry this out say that they feel it is a privilege to honor those who have given of themselves in this way.
- The Boy Scouts of America began putting flags at the Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery. About 4000 Scouts will place flags tomorrow, May 27, 2012, at the graves at that location.
- In 1998 the Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts of America, prior to Memorial Day, placed about 15,000 candles at the grave sites of the Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park.
- *In 2000, the National Moment of Remembrance program was passed by President Bill Clinton. It established that at 3:00 pm. on Memorial Day that all should pause and reflect for a few moments.
Honor our Heroes
- We all know Memorial Day is a time to pause for a moment and remember those who have died in service to our country.
- Those who have put their lives on the line have often fought in controversial wars, far from home, and returned home only to be shunned or cast aside (that is a whole other article) or come home to be buried.
- Those who come home to be buried are often sent to graves where they may be forgotten except by their loving family members
- .Those who were willing to serve lost their lives and they are not honored. It hurts me to write these words.
- Those who sign up to serve in the military arena know there is always the possibility that they will be called upon to make the ultimate sacrifice but do so anyway in the name of their country.
- Step up to the plate and make some noise. Let your legislators know you demand better treatment for our Veterans.
Despite our feelings about whether we should be in a war or not, our allegiance should be to those courageous women and men who serve in our nation’s armed forces. We should pay tribute to them at least in some small way.
Do you know personally a homeless veteran?
...Make a Difference
In many articles that I have read expressions of great disdain for our country and even our people have been expressed. What is so interesting is that in many countries around the world, such expressions of disdain and disapproval could mean a death sentence. The mere fact that we are able to freely express our ideas and beliefs is reason enough for us to pause every day and remember those who are serving our country.
There is an old saying that goes something like this...'If you are not part of the solution, you are part of the problem.' If you have issues with our country, make an effort to find a way to correct whatever it is that causes you concern. Voice your concerns. Vote. Watch how those that you send to state and federal government positions make decisions and vote them out of office if what they do is not working for you. I still believe that you and i can make a difference even if in some small way.
There are many who have lost faith in the voting. And in truth sometimes I wonder if voting a new person in will make a difference. It seems often that when someone is voted into office all of the promises that were made are forgotten or cannot be made good on because in fact that newly elected person is almost powerless. I vote anyway. That is one way I can make my voice heard.
Women and men today as I write this are on foreign soil representing our country in combat. The least I can do is to try to make a difference here. And a small way will be to make an effort on Memorial Day and every day to honor our soldiers.
My Father's helmet from WWI
Bring the pride back and be thankful---every day.
Memorial Day is past. Veteran's Day will be celebrated again. And for most it is a great time to get together, go camping, swimming, fishing, to barbecue, and chill out. The real meaning behind this holiday almost slips by as families gather to have fun.
And perhaps it would not be so significant to me except that my Father began service to his country during World War I and fought in any war he was able to for as many years as he could.
He taught my sisters and me a deep abiding love for our country from our youngest years. He spoke of his years of service, as a pilot, and of the experiences he had. But most of all, he told us how blessed we were (and are) to live in these United States. He did not whitewash the flaws. He told us of what we could do as we grew up to help improve our country. He showed us by example that our country was a place deserving of our respect and pride. Every day he raised and lowered a flag in front of our home…we all gathered around and participated.
For this reason as much as any other, I place flags in my yard and hang a very large flag on the front of my house on Memorial Day and Veteran's Day. Other days I have a flag hanging to show that I am still proud of Old Glory.. It is the that was presented to my Mother when my Father died at the age of 92.. Privately I do things for our living veterans. It is time to pause and reflect and be proud of our service men and women and our country.
It is time to bring the pride back and to be thankful---every day.
It is time to show our Veterans who are homeless that we care what happens to them after their service. We all need to investigate this issue and decide what we can do in our community to help make a difference in the lives of those who have served their country so valiantly.
We should be able to pick up the paper one day and read ....No Veterans are homeless in America.
Sources for this article are:
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2012 Patricia Scott