We can’t forget our veterans

It’s been an American tradition since 1954, and its message transcends time: honor those who have served in the armed forces and those who have died in battle.

During last week’s Veteran’s Day ceremony at the American Legion, post members spoke of courage, valor, freedom, and the toll that war takes on soldiers and their families.

They also talked about the veterans who cannot successfully navigate life after returning home. According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, about one-third of the adult homeless population have served their country in the armed services. Current estimates suggest that around 131,000 veterans (male and female) are homeless on any given night and twice as many experience homelessness at some point during the course of a year. Many other veterans are considered near homeless or at risk because of their poverty, lack of support from family and friends, and dismal living conditions in cheap hotels or in overcrowded or substandard housing.

Regardless of which political side of a conflict you stand upon, the well being of our veterans should be everyone’s concern. Even if we feel the purpose of a war may have been wrong, the bottom line is: our armed services did the dirty work.

Locally, there is help for the 2500 veterans who live in the islands.

The San Juan County Veterans’ Advisory Board is an outreach program authorized by the county to provide emergency assistance to indigent veterans and their families. A small portion of county tax funds are set aside for this, and the board has helped several San Juan County veterans with rent, medical, dental, food, and transportation costs, and counseling services.

Applications for assistance are available through the county website (www.co.san-juan.wa.us), from senior centers, sheriffs’ stations, libraries, and county legislative offices, or at 370-7632.

If you know of a veteran who is struggling, tell him/her about the advisory board. If you are related to a veteran who is in need of counseling, there is help. And if you are a veteran yourself, don’t hesitate to pick up the phone and get a little back from the country to whom you gave so much.