According to a recent article by the Associated Press, an estimated 60,000 U.S. veterans sleep on the streets at night. Veterans make up approximately 14 percent of the homeless population. The good news is that number is down from more than 75,000 homeless vets in 2009. The bad news is…well, obvious.
Service men and women returning home from Vietnam generally did not receive a warm welcome. It was a sign of the times, I guess, but also misdirected anger. If people were angry about the policies of the United States, it would have been better directed at the people who made those policies, rather than at those who enlisted or were drafted and went into harm’s way following orders. Today, of course, things have changed considerably. Everywhere you look you’ll find yellow ribbon bumper stickers claiming that “we support our troops.” That is good news, indeed — and it would be even better if that support continued after they exchanged their uniforms for dress or blue-collar shirts. There is no way this nation can justify the fact that tens of thousands of veterans are unemployed and homeless.
If we ask American men and women to put their lives on the line in the defense of this nation, the least we can do is support them upon their return home. Sure, the ticker tape parades of the past were impressive, the yellow ribbon bumper stickers of today are nice to see, but these days supporting our troops also means helping them to find a job.
Think about 60,000 American veterans sleeping on the streets tonight. And then let’s think about how we can really support our troops, how we can show our continuing gratitude through continued support.