A lyric heard in elevators, markets and malls probably since last Thanksgiving. But an impossible dream if you’re among the chronically homeless. Statistics from the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty in July of 2014, showed that over one million people were homeless, and 40% of those were U.S. military veterans.
The message came in on our website from the caretaker for a vet. Richard Miller, a Vietnam vet, wrote to us about Joe Max Orr, a Navy veteran who’ll celebrate his 100th birthday this December 7. This will be his first birthday celebration since 1941, Pearl Harbor Day. On that day, Joe did not celebrate his birthday, but instead honored the fallen at Pearl Harbor.
Veterans Day is next Tuesday. Our nation has seen twelve years of combat in Iraq and Afghanistan. The war has been present, but perhaps at a safe distance for those who haven’t had someone close to them in harm’s way. One thing is clear: it’s going to take all of us to bridge the civilian/military divide and completely reintegrate our warriors back into our society.
This reintegration is not a new process. I’ve been working with veterans’ “coming home” since the Vietnam War.
As the Women Veterans Outreach Coordinator at the National Veterans Foundation, I work with many veterans who are struggling to reintegrate into civilian life, but one of the most challenging and frustrating aspects of my work is helping young vets who are homeless. There are so many, and I have cannot believe the numbers of veterans, and particularly women veterans, who are living in their cars.
As Veterans Day approaches, I wanted to highlight a couple of veterans’ successes by sharing stories that show the importance of vet-to-vet connection and what can happen if treatment and housing options are available to help vets rebuild their lives.
It was 1987, a little over ten years after the end of the Vietnam War, when Good Morning, Vietnam opened in theatres across America. The actor playing Airman DJ Adrian Cronauer won a Golden Globe Award for “Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture”, an American Comedy Award for “Funniest Actor in a Motion Picture (Leading Role)”, and was nominated for a “Best Actor” Academy Award. That actor was someone very special.
You probably knew him as Maverick or Rockford. He was an icon in film and television. At the National Veterans Foundation we knew him as a supporter who was there for veterans over and over. James Garner served as an honorary board member of the NVF for many years. In 1996 we honored him as our Veteran of the Year. But he wasn’t the kind of man to make a big deal of that. I doubt that there are even a handful of people out there who knew about his support for vets.
Stop me if you’ve heard this one: a duck walks into the VA…
Sometimes exaggerating to the point of absurdity is a way to draw attention to something. And sometimes a story needs no exaggeration at all. It’s absurd all on its own.