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Serving Those Who Have Served Our Country

11 Nov

For the past couple of years, I’ve blogged on Veterans Day even when, like this year, I’ve been a bit remiss about blogging on other days.  Last year I remembered a man I am proud to have called a friend and whose cause I was honored to assist, Jimmy Proffit.

DSCN1311There are more than 50,000 homeless veterans on our streets today. I am glad that my father was never one of them, nor my friend Linda’s brother. I am ashamed that our country cannot take better care of these lost soldiers.

Today, I want to mention other veterans who have been inspired to serve their brothers and sisters no longer in arms who are in desperate need of help:

This morning I heard a feature news story on our local NPR station about another local couple whose similar altruistic impulses moved me to tears. Soldiers Committed to Remaking the World (RTW). Daniel and Arbetha Habeel founded RTW in 2010 to serve veterans. A retired, disabled Viet Nam era veteran, Mr. Habeel and his wife recognized, like Jimmy Proffitt and his wife Virginia had, that there are far too many homeless veterans on our streets. Whether unable to work due to physical disability, broken by PTSD, or simply ill-equipped to reenter the civilian world, these veterans often cannot easily access resources. It could be that the resources don’t exist, or that they don’t know how to track them down. We’ve all read about the backlogs at VA hospitals, for instance.

Mr. and Mrs. Habeel began by offering homeless vets a place to stay. They were affiliated with another veterans service organization and during a fundraiser for that group, homeless vets who were hungry rang the bell and asked for a meal. The Habeels fed them, charging whatever small change the vet could offer. When the vets offer nothing, the Habeels fed them anyway. They realized that the veterans living in the park across the street from their Washington Park home needed more services–food, shelter, transportation, clothing–and set out to provide it. They have been doing so for five years, taking no government funding in order to serve veterans who have had discharges other than “honorable.”

Chicago Standdown happened yesterday. I had the privilege of volunteering once at Standdown. Started by Vietnam veterans Robert Van Keuren and Jon Nachison in San Diego. According to their website, “nearly 200 Standdown events occur each year and it is estimated that over 52,000 veterans are served each year by these programs and approximately 27,000 volunteers help to make this happen.” Government organizations participate in these events and veterans can learn about services there, but the barbers and cooks are community members. Chicago Standdown occurs twice a year at the Humboldt Park Armoryand serves 700-800 veterans each time. Follow the fourth link below to hear a moving story about Standdown and how it helps vets from Seattle to Morriston NJ.

The lights on my porch are green this week. Every time I walk into the house, I think about those who have served our country in war and in peace. Have you said thank you? #GreenlightAVet

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