Bonds of Battle
There are more than 67,000 homeless veterans in America. Veterans become homeless for many reasons. Financial trouble and a lack of support or safety net are compounded by the psychological conditions many veterans face: around 400,000 have reported TBI (traumatic brain injury) symptoms, while at least 200,000 veterans have reported PTSD symptoms. These conditions, which are not always diagnosed, frequently lead to substance abuse and make it more difficult for veterans to find and keep a job – especially in a difficult economy.
Almost half of all homeless veterans in America fought in Vietnam, but there are as many as 20,000 vets who have returned from Iraq and Afghanistan and become homeless in the past five years, including women veterans with children. This number is increasing.
Private Larry Michaelis: A Vietnam Veteran’s Story
Private Larry Michaelis was 18 years old when he was flown into Vietnam in 1968, just after the siege of Khe Sanh began. Like other Vietnam veterans who defended the U.S., Larry did not receive a warm welcome when he returned home. And, after battling PTSD without treatment for years, Larry lost everything and became homeless.
Larry and other homeless veterans reflect on their experiences in the video below.
On the 2012 “National Memorial Day Concert,” four-time Emmy award-winning star of “NYPD Blue” and Vietnam vet, Dennis Franz, shared Private Larry Michaelis’ incredible story.
“Ever since my return home after serving a tour with the Army in Vietnam, 1969-70, Memorial Day has been a solemn personal day of reflection for me. My heart and my arms go out to every brave man and woman who has shown the strength and courage to serve in our military forces and my love goes out to the families who have either lost one of these brave individuals or have had them return home unlike they left. With great pride and gratitude, I am honored to be a part of this Memorial Day concert.”
Fortunately for Larry, he received assistance from the Florida branch of the Volunteers of America. But, there are many other organizations committed to helping end homelessness among veterans in the U.S.
Organizations That Offer Assistance to Homeless Veterans
Veterans Affairs Initiative on Homelessness
Some noteworthy VA programs and joint initiatives to help homeless veterans include:
U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development (HUD) - Veteran Information
National Coalition for Homeless Veterans
National Alliance to End Homelessness - Veterans information
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) Homelessness Resource Center - Veterans