If I did not blog on 11-11-11 I would be un-American. More importantly, if I did not blog on Veteran's Day, I would also be un-American. First, I want to start today with a sincere, deserved, and heartfelt 'thank you' to our country's veterans, however and whenever you have served, you have united and liberated each individual with your dedication and commitment. We are honored to have had so many veterans and currently serving military personnel volunteer and work at the Hospitality Center. We are also honored to be able to serve our veterans directly at the VA House on Mountain Ave, and to work with them everyday in an effort to secure employment, government assistance, housing, and relationships within our community.
I'm not a big fan of statistics, but this one is shocking and heartbreaking: there are 23 million homeless veterans in the United States of America. One sixth of adults currently in homeless shelters are veterans, and vets are 50% more likely to become homeless compared with other Americans. (The San Mateo Daily Journal, 11/11/11.)
So what is being done to ensure that our veterans are being recognized and heard? We can speak for the efforts of Connecticut with the Errera Community Care Center. Since shelter is one of the 3 basic human needs (food/clothing/shelter), the Errera Center has placed a major focus on subsidized and non-subsidized housing within communities specifically for veterans. Through the Veterans Housing Assistance Fund, veterans are able to receive grants or loans to support their step into housing. Since finding assistance for housing through the VA alone can often times be unsuccessful, as the VA is able to provide limited transitional and permanent housing options, the VHAF helps with the growing need for permanent housing for veterans as well as medical counseling and other social services. The VHAF is continuously building more units to make available to our veterans, for example in Jewett City, the American Legion Post No. 15 is planning to build 18 units of permanent supportive housing with the support and efforts within their community. (www.erreraccc.com).
Looking for some ways to thank a veteran today? I personally love the list posted by The Daily Herald in Illinois:
1. Stand up at 11 a.m., put your hand over your heart and face the East for one minute. Honoring the Armistice signing in France (at 11 a.m. on Nov. 11, 1918) in this manner has largely gone out of vogue in the U.S. although Armistice Day remembrances in Europe are coming back into practice. The last surviving U.S. World War I veteran died in February — you can give that whole class of Americans one final salute in a way they would have appreciated.
2. Send a card or note to a hospitalized veteran or one living in a veterans home. Better yet, if it’s possible, take time to visit one. To find a location, visit www.va.gov. Or send a letter for the holidays through the American Red Cross and Pitney Bowes' 5th annual Holiday Mail for Heroes program.
3. Attend a Veterans Day ceremony in your community
4. If you own a company, or make employment decisions, consider hiring a veteran. While the national unemployment rate sat at about 9 percent in September, the rate for veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars rose to 12.1 percent, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
5. Leave a message online thanking veterans for their sacrifice. Messages can be left at the Facebook pages for the U.S. Army, Navy, Marines or Air Force.
6. Research and donate time or money to a local charity that helps homeless veterans. About 13,000 former service members between 18 and 30 were homeless in 2010, according to the Department of Housing and Urban Development and Department of Veterans Affairs. Their study showed an estimated 145,000 veterans spent at least one night in a homeless shelter or transitional housing in 2010.
7. Donate to or assist an organization that helps wounded veterans, such as Disabled American Veterans, the Wounded Warriors Project or Soldiers Angels.
8. Learn about local, state and national issues affecting veterans then let your voice be heard. To find out more about some of those issues before Congress, visit veterans.house.gov.
9. Leave a public voice mail expressing gratitude to veterans. Canary Voice’s Library of Congress website.
11. Make sure your children understand the significance of Veterans Day and the sacrifice of those who have served. And at the very least, be sure to say “thank you” to a veteran today, be it a friend, family member, co-worker or just someone you see in the community.
Personally, I'm a huge fan of the Soldier's Angels network. It's a great way to get involved at any age, even if you only have 30 minutes a week to give. Essentially, you "adopt" a soldier and act as their angel. Send them letters, care packages, poems, cartoons, pictures, anything you can think of to let them know that someone back home is thinking of them. Get a group involved by helping to make holiday care packages, have a classroom of students write letters, Boy Scout troops can do a sock drive to contribute to the holiday care packages, Halloween candy is on sale right now which makes it the perfect time to stock up on treats for troops, and check out their project site to find something that fits your talents and their needs: http://soldiersangels.org/teams-programs.html.
We cannot thank our veterans and currently serving military personnel enough, your sacrifices have enabled and continue to enable our freedom. Thank you for all you do, we hope we can provide for you the best of our services as you need them.