Veteran’s Day is a dedicated time to recognize the millions who have served our country during times of peace and times of turmoil. Though this holiday is an important annual reminder for Americans to reflect on the contributions of our veterans, the reality is that our soldiers, both past and present, deserve appreciation and caring everyday. So how can we do this? The Salvation Army is committed to serving our veteran population in a variety of ways.
It all began with serving donuts and coffee to soldiers during World War I. The “doughnut lassies” lifted the spirits of the service men and brought a smile to their faces in a time of fear and unknown. After seeing the impact of this service and to help those in need during the Great Depression, The Salvation Army adopted the mission of serving soldiers and veterans.
In the decades since WWI, needs of veterans have evolved. Homelessness, PTSD, self-medication, and addiction have caused many of those who gave everything to lose everything. Veterans often find themselves battling loneliness and depression years after returning home. The Salvation Army is committed to standing beside those who stood up for us by offering a variety of veteran services to meet their needs. Whether it’s phone cards to call home, wheelchair assistance, or a friendly smile and companionship for the afternoon, we’re always ready to come to their aid. This month volunteers from The Salvation Army Chicago Metropolitan Division will be visiting Hines VA Hospital to visit veterans and thank them for their service.
But we’re not just spending an afternoon with those who spent months or years defending our beloved country. The Salvation Army has several long-term programs that are designed to support our veterans. The Salvation Army assists hundreds of thousands of veterans across the US with shelter, comfort, counseling, support and more.
We offer a home to those who have protected ours. Whenever a veteran doesn’t have any place to go, it’s an honor to give them a place to rest their head, a hot meal, help finding employment, and a fresh start. In fact, veterans comprise 8% of the homeless population in the country they risked their lives to protect. Bringing this issue closer to home, nearly 1 of every 20 Chicagoans is homeless. But just $200 can provide shelter for a homeless veteran for a week.
Our veterans are still fighting battles. At least 20% of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans suffer from PTSD and/or depression. What’s worse is PTSD can lead to addiction. More than 20% of veterans with PTSD also suffer from an addiction or dependence on drugs or alcohol. But The Salvation Army provides counseling and rehabilitation programs to help these men and women fight their internal battles. While this support is priceless to a veteran coping with the aftermath of service, just $25 provides him/her a week of counseling at The Salvation Army. Even when you donate your gently used goods to The Salvation Army Family Thrift Store, you help fund rehabilitation programs that heal addiction.
While the statistics are staggering, there’s hope for the future as The Salvation Army continues to provide long-term support to our veterans in many ways. We express gratitude for our country’s bravest men and women by offering a hand and our hearts to those struggling to find their way after coming back home.
Most importantly, we are honored to serve those who have served our nation.
Thank you to our Veterans.