Homeless vets

Dear Editor: Did you know there are close to 50,000 homeless veterans living in the United States today? That’s like 50,000 too many.

My name is Fernando and I am a U.S. Army veteran. I joined the Army after graduating high school at 17 years old. I served for four years and did two tours in Iraq. After the Army, I found myself coming home a hero. I enjoyed my 15 minutes of fame everywhere I went with my uniform. I was greeted with smiles, handshakes, hugs and kisses. Complete strangers welcoming me home or thanking me for my service.

As time went by, those greetings became less frequent. I was blending in, becoming a civilian, adjusting back to a life we have forgotten.

The first time I became aware that there are 50,000 homeless vets in the U.S., I thought, “Wow, that’s a lot.” My second thought was, “Any number of homeless vets is too many. That’s not right; veterans should not have to worry about where to live after experiencing all the sacrifices necessary of becoming a veteran.” My third thought was, “What can I do about it?”

I would watch videos and read stories about homeless veterans, and I continued to do this until “liking” or “sharing” and commenting wasn’t enough to satisfy my newfound passion of helping homeless veterans.

I started doing research into how to help homeless veterans. I wrote down every idea that I had, taking notes on available programs, what these programs do and how they do it. And most importantly, I started spreading the word. If you’ve seen me recently, you have been made aware of how many homeless veterans there are in the U.S. Most shared my point of view, a minimal amount did not.

Soon after, I posted my ideas on social media. I received immediate support; I also received an invitation to a briefing about the mayor’s plan to end veteran homelessness in my city. I thought, “What a great place to start.” But the more I think about it, the more I realized that I have already started. This all started with an idea, now that idea drives me, motivates me, and reminds me. These people are still veterans, veterans that used to be welcomed, thanked, hugged, they used to be appreciated. What changed?

The only thing stopping me from achieving this is myself. I’m reminded of how I felt looking to my left and my right and seeing a fellow soldier, willing to sacrifice everything for what they believe in. I stand here today, that same soldier, looking to my left and my right, ready to sacrifice for what I believe in.

Every day I continue to push myself to achieve this goal and whenever I lack motivation I remind myself: there are 50,000 homeless veterans in the United States today. That’s 50,000 too many.

Fernando Valdivia

Downey

 

**********

Published: March 5, 2015 - Volume 13 - Issue 47