What if Memorial Day meant SAVING veterans’ lives, not just commemorating them? Tens of thousands of former servicemen and women need our help right now if we want to make sure next Memorial Day we’re not placing flags at their graves.
In a retelling of the Good Samaritan story, a homeless man sits begging at the side of the road. A family with young children passes by, dressed in red, white, and blue, carrying small flags and similar things to wave. In a hurry to get a good spot for the Memorial Day parade, they walk by him, with only the youngest child giving him a second glance. A few minutes later, a local community leader and businessman also passes him by, too busy rehearsing his speech to be delivered at the foot of the veterans’ memorial to see the former serviceman. Finally, a woman whose son’s name is newly listed on that memorial walks past the veteran, then stops and turns around. It is her fallen son’s face she sees and his memory she honors when she skips the parade and the ceremony to talk to the homeless veteran, to hear his story and help him.
What Does Memorial Day Mean?
Just a parable, maybe, but an important reminder that this month is more than just parades, picnics, flags, and memories. Memorial Day has always been about remembering the sacrifices and acts of courage by men and women who’ve fallen in service to their country. By observing this holiday, we are declaring that what was given – the lives of these brave souls – will not be forgotten, and will continue to be honored year after year, generation after generation.
We love Memorial Day. Not because we enjoy celebrating loss, but because we love honoring all who’ve served. We also know that Memorial Day is just one moment of the year that we’ve all agreed to celebrate. We believe it is crucial for us to remember that honoring all who’ve served needs to happen year-round, and with more than just waving flags, reciting speeches, and laying flowers on graves. We have men and women veterans, not yet lost to us, who need our help.
Throughout the year, we receive news stories of homeless veterans who die on our streets. Sometimes, the community honors their service and provides a memorial and a hero’s burial. We read these stories with great sadness, knowing we were too late to help that veteran, knowing this Memorial Day there will be one more veteran who can only be remembered.
Throughout the year, we also receive comments from the VA social workers who help the veterans we do reach and get housed. They send in notes like this one:
A veteran that was living out of his truck for more than 6 months … had zero income and was unaware of services offered by Veterans Affairs. The veteran did not have money necessary for security deposit, community services would not help due to the sustainability factor with zero income. Veterans Matter was able help this veteran by paying his security deposit. Once in his own apartment, the veteran was able to find work and continues to work on his recovery journey.
He was placed in long-term supportive housing created by a partnership between HUD and the VA, called HUD-VASH. The Veteran Affairs Supportive Housing (VASH) vouchers are part of a nationwide effort to end veteran homelessness by the close of 2015. That’s less than eight months away. Our program provides the money for security deposits so veterans can use VASH vouchers and get into safe housing, which has a 91% success rate keeping them there. Last count, there are still 49,933 veterans in need on our streets. Do you sense the urgency?
We implore you to not just walk by on your way to the parade. Consider the purpose of Memorial Day – to honor the sacrifices of service to country – by participating in our campaign this month to raise money and awareness to end veteran homelessness. We would ask you to add to your voice and action in recognition that there are tens of thousands of men and women on our streets who are still sacrificing, many because of service to their country. They need our help. And they need your help. Together, we can get them housed today.
Here is what you can do. First donate securely on our site at this page, or use your mobile phone to text VETS to 41444 and click through to donate any amount on your credit card. Second, you can “like” or follow us on Facebook or Twitter , and share our posts and tweets. Third you can visit our spread the word page and share our images, tweets, posts, or even the images of one of the 20+ musicians and celebrities who have also joined our campaign. Fourth, and probably the easiest, share this post right now.
Former Michigan Governor Granholm summed up our message best when she said:
“Ceremonies are important. But our gratitude has to be more than visits to the troops and once a year Memorial Day ceremonies. We honor the dead best by treating the living well.” – Jennifer Granholm