From the Reading Eagle
We pause to honor those who have donned the uniform of one of the branches of the armed forces of the United States. A grateful nation salutes the men and women who have set their personal lives on hold so that they could fill the need of the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and Coast Guard.
We especially honor the veterans of World War II, the youngest of whom are in their late 80s. They rightfully earned the title of the greatest generation on the beaches of Normandy and Iwo Jima, in the forests of the Ardennes and the jungles of Saipan, on the streets of Cherbourg, in the skies over the Pacific, in the water surrounding Truk Lagoon and hundreds of other locations in the European and Pacific theaters.
According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, more than 16.1 million Americans served in the armed forces during World War II. Fewer than 1.7 million of them are still with us. Many were volunteers. All saw things that would change their lives.
The citizen soldier has been a stalwart of American history. During times of national crisis, millions of men and women have left school or jobs to defend their country. Indeed, for nearly the last four decades, every member of our military has been a volunteer.
Some have made the ultimate sacrifice. But make no mistake, each one of them sacrificed something during their service, whether it was leaving a limb on the battlefield or simply spending time away from loved ones during long deployments.
In recent years there has been a growing and disturbing trend among our veterans: a disproportionate increase in homelessness. According to the National Coalition for the Homeless, 23 percent of the homeless population are veterans, even though veterans constitute only 8 percent of the population at large. Nearly half of the homeless vets served during the Vietnam War, and three-quarters of them have had some sort of alcohol, drug or mental-health problem.
The coalition estimated that another 1.5 million veterans are at risk of homelessness due to poverty, lack of support networks and dismal, overcrowded living conditions.
There are many factors behind the high level of homelessness among veterans, including a lack of affordable housing, a dearth of decent paying jobs and inadequate access to health care. In addition the training that veterans received in the military is not always useful when it comes to seeking civilian employment.
The Department of Veterans Affairs said it is committed to ending veteran homelessness by the end of 2015: "No one who has served our country should ever go without a safe, stable place to call home."
We couldn't agree more. But fulfilling that commitment is going to take much more than a promise to do so. Despite programs designed to help those who have served, many veterans are unaware of them or unwilling to seek assistance.
One of the ways you can thank a veteran for his service, especially if you know one who has fallen on hard times, is to contact the Department of Veterans Affairs and alert officials to his plight.
It is the least we can do for those who have put their lives on the line so that America could remain the beacon of liberty for the rest of the world.