SAMHS Airmen, Soldiers give hope to homeless veterans
By Staff Sgt. Kevin Iinuma
59th Medical Wing Public Affairs
Airmen and Soldiers from the Wilford Hall Ambulatory Surgical Center and the San Antonio Military Medical Center volunteered Nov. 8 to help homeless veterans at the 16th annual American GI Forum Veterans Day Stand Down.
An estimated 1,000 needy veterans attended the event in downtown San Antonio, which acts as a doorway for many veterans who seek to work their way back into society and self-sufficiency.
More than 529,000 veterans are homeless at some time during the year, according to the Massachusetts Department of Veterans’ Services.
Stand Downs are typically one- to three-day events providing food, shelter, clothing and health screenings to homeless veterans.
Other services may include Veterans Affairs and Social Security Administration benefits counseling, and referrals to a variety of other basic services like housing, employment and substance abuse treatment.
“Every veteran who has worn a U.S. military uniform and served with honor deserves a warm meal, a haircut, clean, serviceable clothes, medical care and the opportunity to apply for benefits,” said U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Alan Weary, career assistance advisor for the 59th Medical Wing at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland.
Veterans are twice as likely as any other Americans to become chronically homeless.
Weary said approximately 33 percent of homeless males in the United States are veterans. The number of homeless Vietnam-era veterans, both male and female, is greater than the number of service members who died during the war.
They represent 11 percent of the adult civilian population, but 26 percent of the homeless population, according to the Homeless Research Institute in 2007.
“We want to honor all veterans,” said Ignacio Leija, vice president of service operations for the American GI Forum, “These veterans are sometimes forgotten. Even though they may not have a place to stay, they still served this country.”
“It is very rewarding to serve our fellow veterans and continue to pave a proud legacy that is built on integrity, service and excellence,” Weary said.