-Written by Erik Sargent
During the month of November, we stop to take time and recognize the proud men and women who have served in our military – past and present – and thank them for their courageous service to this great nation.
Freedom isn’t free, and these veterans put their lives on the line so we can enjoy the many activities each of us take for granted every day, and it’s important to show them how big of an impact they‘ve made. Unfortunately, for many veterans, life can become challenging when they return home from their service, and tough times become the norm for many veterans across the country.
According to the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans – although impossible to count because it changes so frequently – there are roughly 39,471 veterans that are homeless on any given night.
According to the National Veterans Foundation, 20 percent of the veterans who served in either Iraq or Afghanistan suffer from major depression or post-traumatic stress disorder, and studies show that only 50 percent of veterans who need treatment for these issues receive these services. Both homelessness and mental health are two major issues veterans deal with upon return from overseas, and there is a strong correlation between the two.
“Mental health is a big contributor to homelessness, and what we need to do is be able to prevent this homelessness,” said Joe Davis, director of communications, publications, and public affairs for the Veterans of Foreign Wars.
The VFW – and many other organizations like it – are designed to help assist veterans in getting the proper services and care they need from the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs, a task that in theory should seem easy, but is often difficult and time consuming. It starts with identifying the problems and the people who need help, and figuring out who can tackle the issues.
“The VA has been so badly bruised, and veterans don’t go there for the services that they’ve earned,” said Mark Sutton, public relations director for The American Legion Department of Michigan. “They go at it improperly, and they are not using expertise to help them get the benefits, and they get frustrated by the system. The bureaucracy of the VA pushes people away. As veterans, we’re all people who just want to get stuff done, and the VA is completely the opposite.”
Each veteran is different, and must be treated on a case-by-case basis. This requires raising awareness across the public, and finding out ways to at least get these veterans in line for the services that can help them with some of the struggles they face.
Some need assistance more than others, and many are more receptive, but it’s important that everyone is given a chance.
“We recognize that some veterans want to stay homeless,” Sutton said. “They just do, and they are not going to change anything they do. So trying to recognize them and get them any services we can get them, we try to do that. The second piece is finding those that are homeless but want to know what systems they can get into to get back on their feet.”
While organizations like the VFW and The American Legion aim to tackle these larger scale issues, there’s still a lot that can be done to help the cause of veterans and ensure they have a better life after their service is complete. This can be anything from small, local organizations providing shelter and resources, to people volunteering their time and money.
One instance of this can be found with the international moving company TWO MEN AND A TRUCK®, where each fall, franchise locations across the country run the Movers for Military campaign. The campaign is aimed at getting veterans – homeless or those who could use a little assistance – the essential care items they need during the cold months, and making sure they are taken care of.
“We provide every day hygiene items,” said Eugenia Parlow, regional sales and marketing manager at multiple TWO MEN AND A TRUCK locations in Florida. “From soap, toothpaste, deodorants, and other items for homeless veterans and their families. The charities we work with distribute these items directly to veterans living in the streets and in homeless shelters.”
Across the TWO MEN AND A TRUCK system, there are countless veterans working in positions ranging from drivers all the way up to franchise owners, so any work with veterans is a high priority for the brand.
With the ability to use their trucks and movers to both collect and deliver goods, they‘re able to cover a lot of ground, and ensure veterans in their communities are equipped with the items they need to live day-to-day.
“Veterans have given so much of their lives and have endured the stresses of combat,” Parlow said. “Many veterans need help, and the TWO MEN AND A TRUCK Movers for Military program provides items they can’t normally get through government channels. It gives them a sense of wellbeing.”
In order to help out veterans, a large government agency or a successful corporate company isn’t needed – all that you need is a willingness to give back and support those who put their lives on the line for this country.
From volunteering at veterans hospitals and shelters, to veteran-support organizations, there are places in virtually every community of in each state that have dedicated organizations working to improve the life of veterans in need.
“For a civilian to want to help out veterans, they can volunteer at a VA hospital or a medical center,” Sutton said. “They can go into the volunteer services and apply to become a volunteer at those places.”
Any type of donation involving time or money goes a long way, and can make an impact on a veteran’s life somewhere in the country.
“Get involved. Donate your time, donate your money – no matter how large or small, it helps,” Davis said. “I always like to believe there are angels walking amongst us, you just have to open your eyes and recognize what you are doing.”