SAMHS Airmen, Soldiers give hope to homeless veterans

Hundreds of homeless veterans line up to receive free services and goods Nov. 8 during the 16th annual American GI Forum Veterans Stand Down. Held in downtown San Antonio, the event was sponsored by the National Veterans Outreach Program. Airmen and Soldiers from the 59th Medical Wing and the San Antonio Military Medical Center volunteered to provide basic necessities to homeless veterans. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Christopher Carwile)

Hundreds of homeless veterans line up to receive free services and goods Nov. 8 during the 16th annual American GI Forum Veterans Stand Down. Held in downtown San Antonio, the event was sponsored by the National Veterans Outreach Program. Airmen and Soldiers from the 59th Medical Wing and the San Antonio Military Medical Center volunteered to provide basic necessities to homeless veterans. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Christopher Carwile)

Airmen from the 59th Medical Wing and the San Antonio Military Medical Center work alongside National Veterans Outreach Program volunteers to put together sandwiches during the Nov. 8 American GI Forum Veterans Stand Down. The annual event helps provide homeless veterans with basic necessities like food and clothing, as well as free access to health services and other benefits. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Christopher Carwile)

Airmen from the 59th Medical Wing and the San Antonio Military Medical Center work alongside National Veterans Outreach Program volunteers to put together sandwiches during the Nov. 8 American GI Forum Veterans Stand Down. The annual event helps provide homeless veterans with basic necessities like food and clothing, as well as free access to health services and other benefits. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Christopher Carwile)

Volunteers with the Salvation Army use an emergency disaster relief food truck to provide hot food to homeless veterans during the American GI Forum Veterans Stand Down Nov. 8 in downtown San Antonio. The Salvation Army was one of several organizations partnering to provide basic necessities in an effort to bring stability to the lives of needy veterans. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Christopher Carwile)

Volunteers with the Salvation Army use an emergency disaster relief food truck to provide hot food to homeless veterans during the American GI Forum Veterans Stand Down Nov. 8 in downtown San Antonio. The Salvation Army was one of several organizations partnering to provide basic necessities in an effort to bring stability to the lives of needy veterans. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Christopher Carwile)

Veterans salute as the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post No. 76 honor guard presents the colors Nov. 8 at the 16th annual American GI Forum Veterans Stand Down. The event provided homeless veterans with medical and dental services, food, winter clothing, flu shots, and haircuts, as well as a variety of other services. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Kevin Iinuma)

Veterans salute as the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post No. 76 honor guard presents the colors Nov. 8 at the 16th annual American GI Forum Veterans Stand Down. The event provided homeless veterans with medical and dental services, food, winter clothing, flu shots, and haircuts, as well as a variety of other services. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Kevin Iinuma)

Airmen from the 59th Medical Wing help pass out free gear to homeless veterans Nov. 8 during the 16th annual American GI Forum Veterans Stand Down. The event was organized by the National Veterans Outreach Program and provided services and entertainment to homeless veterans in the local community. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Kevin Iinuma)

Airmen from the 59th Medical Wing help pass out free gear to homeless veterans Nov. 8 during the 16th annual American GI Forum Veterans Stand Down. The event was organized by the National Veterans Outreach Program and provided services and entertainment to homeless veterans in the local community. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Kevin Iinuma)

SAN ANTONIO, Texas -- Airmen and Soldiers from the Wilford Hall Ambulatory Surgical Center and the San Antonio Military Medical Center volunteered Nov. 8 to help homeless veterans at the 16th annual American GI Forum Veterans Day Stand Down.

An estimated 1,000 needy veterans attended the event in downtown San Antonio, which acts as a doorway for many veterans who seek to work their way back into society and self-sufficiency.

More than 529,000 veterans are homeless at some time during the year, according to the Massachusetts Department of Veterans' Services.

Stand Downs are typically one- to three-day events providing services like food, shelter, clothing, and health screenings to homeless veterans. Other services may include Veterans Affairs and Social Security Administration benefits counseling, and referrals to a variety of other basic services like housing, employment and substance abuse treatment.

"Every veteran who has worn a U.S. military uniform and served with honor deserves a warm meal, a haircut, clean, serviceable clothes, medical care and the opportunity to apply for benefits," said U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Alan Weary, career assistance advisor for the 59th Medical Wing at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland.

Veterans are twice as likely as any other Americans to become chronically homeless.

Weary said approximately 33 percent of homeless males in the United States are veterans. The number of homeless Vietnam-era veterans, both male and female, is greater than the number of service members who died during the war.

They represent 11 percent of the adult civilian population, but 26 percent of the homeless population, according to the Homeless Research Institute in 2007.

"We want to honor all veterans," said Ignacio Leija, vice president of service operations for the American GI Forum, "and these veterans are sometimes forgotten. Even though they may not have a place to stay, they still served this country."

"It is very rewarding to serve our fellows veterans and continue to pave a proud legacy that is built on integrity, service, and excellence," said Weary.

For more information on how to make a donation or volunteer your time to the American GI Forum, call at 210-354-4892.

 
 
  
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