In his excellent post honoring our veterans, Jazz Shaw mentioned that “The debt we owe to our returning heroes runs much deeper than a free pass to Disneyland.”
While we have come a long way in how we treat our veterans and in improving the benefits and services our veterans receive, especially under the leadership of Gen. Eric Shinseki, we still have a long way to go.
In particular, as mentioned by Shaw, the number of homeless veterans is shocking and shameful.
Today’s New York Times brings home this disgraceful situation:
About one-third of all adult homeless men are veterans, and an average night finds an estimated 131,000 of them from five decades bedding down on streets and in charity sanctuaries. About 3 in 100 of them are back from Iraq and Afghanistan. The problem of homelessness for Vietnam veterans is, shamefully, well known. But the men and women in this growing cohort took just 18 months to find rock bottom, compared with the five years-plus of the previous generation’s veterans.
According to the Times, “General Shinseki has promised to galvanize the Department of Veterans Affairs to lead a national drive to end veteran homelessness in the next five years” and has pledged $3.2 billion towards housing, education, job and medical programs to help our troubled veterans, also “more beds for transition programs, including those intended to help the 40,000 veterans released each year from prisons.”
However, our government—no matter how well-intentioned—can not do it all. Our veterans need, deserve, the help of every American.
The Times mentions, “We believe [Shinseki] has the mettle to pull this off. He will need a lot of help from the White House, Congress and communities across the country. The general-turned-secretary is appealing to thousands of worthy organizations already in the field to double their efforts to help.”
Shaw mentioned two such organizations: Thank a Vet program and Project Valor – IT.
My hometown newspaper, this morning, described another such organization: “Soldiers’ Angels.”
Soldiers’ Angels was started by Patti Patton-Bader, a grandniece of Gen. George S. Patton, shortly after her son deployed to Iraq in 2003.
Today, Soldiers’ Angels is a $25 million-a-year non-profit organization with more than 280,000 volunteers and “does everything from [providing] winter jackets to homeless veterans to [raising] money for voice-activated laptops for wounded service members.”
But Soldiers’ Angels does much more than providing winter jackets to homeless veterans:
As deployments stretched ever longer and soldiers were called for multiple tours of duty, the group’s attention turned to the impact on the families left behind, and Soldiers’ Angels began organizing mass baby showers for expectant mothers whose husbands were deployed abroad. Lately, as more soldiers return home, the group is helping service members transition to civilian life. Soldiers’ Angels now helps wounded veterans with traumatic brain injury get access to cutting-edge hyperbaric oxygen treatment and use music therapy to regain lost memories…Soldiers’ Angels is opening a new healing center and warehouse in San Antonio, next to Brooke Army Medical Center, that will employ service members transitioning from active service to civilian life and help them find veteran mentors.
Thank you Patti Patton-Bader, thank you Soldiers’ Angels, and most of all, thank you American veterans.
As the Times says, “Our veterans shouldn’t be forced to battle on their own just to survive at home.” Help a veteran in any way you can; go to http://www.soldiersangels.org/; or find an organization near you that you know will help our veterans.
Image: Courtesy Soldiers’ Angels
The author is a retired U.S. Air Force officer and a writer.