I've got a record of someone in my family serving in just about every conflict ever waged from the American Revolution through Vietnam. A few were even killed. Some were turned away. Like my maternal grandfather. After Pearl Harbor, Young Tom went to enlist. Being over 40, he was deemed "too old" to serve. (I guess it was a good thing or I might not be here. Had Young Tom been accepted and deployed almost immediately as so many were in early 1942, he wouldn't have been home to create my mother, thereby ending the family tree that branches to me.)
Our country has a mixed bag of reactions to those who have served. Civil War vets were revered; Vietnam vets were spat upon. It's an understatement to say that those who have served are not getting their just desserts today.
According to the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans: the VA estimates that nearly 200,000 veterans are homeless on any given night. And nearly 400,000 experience homelessness over the course of a year. Conservatively, one out of every three homeless men who is sleeping in a doorway, alley or box in our cities and rural communities has put on a uniform and served this country.
That is unacceptable and unforgivable. But there are things you can do. For starters, the NCHV recommends these:
- Determine the need in your community. Visit with homeless veteran providers. Contact your local mayor’s office for a list of providers.
- Involve others. If you are not already part of an organization, pull together a few people who might be interested in attacking this issue.
- Participate in local homeless coalitions. Chances are there is one in your community. If not, this may be the time to start bringing people together around this critical need.
- Send a financial donation to your local homeless veteran provider.
- Contact your elected officials. Discuss what is being done in your community for homeless veterans.
But the most immediate thing you can do today is to turn to a vet you know -- or maybe one you don't, but that you know is a veteran -- and just say "thanks."