Awareness is growing about how we treat our war veterans, and frankly, it’s about time. Those who served our country overseas are returning to substandard medical facilities, a lack of available civilian jobs and little help when it comes to dealing with the emotional trauma of war.
This is why veterans groups locally and nationally are pushing legislators to act on their behalf. They want and deserve honorable treatment.
Look at what happened recently with Soldier On in Albany County. The group went in front of the county Legislature and demanded action on a bill that would establish affordable housing for veterans at the current site of the Ann Lee Home in Colonie. The Democratic majority wasn’t in any hurry to pass the legislation until Soldier On paid them a visit. Faced with a crowd of angry veterans, the majority relented and moved forward with the project.
Mind you, the county Democrats weren’t opposed to the project. They simply wanted to move at their own pace. But time is not a luxury lawmakers have these days when faced with what to do for veterans. As the United States winds down its military operations in the Middle East, more veterans are coming home to uncertain futures – whether it’s finding jobs or finding housing for themselves and their families.
Lt. Col. Mat Tully is one of those veterans returning to civilian life in the Capital District. Unlike some of his peers, Tully returned to a flourishing professional career. The law firm he co-founded, Tully Rinckey, had nearly doubled in size
Still, Tully had challenges to deal with. He was wounded while serving in Afghanistan, which led to stays in two military hospitals. Once home, he had to make the difficult transition from combat zone and wounded warrior care to being a husband, a father to two young children and a lawyer.
“There’s very little correlation between military and civilian life, and it’s tough on the family,” said Tully in a profile the Colonie Spotlight ran July 23.
At least Tully had previous experience making the transition from military to civilian life, having done so twice before. Some who are coming back from serving overseas are doing so for the first time and losing the support system and routines they had in place when they were in the military.
This is why Soldier On’s push for establishing affordable housing is a significant step in helping veterans make this transition. Giving them a place to live within their means while looking for jobs provides these brave men and women with a sense that their country – or at least their county – isn’t going to abandon them. It may only be a small token of gratitude in the larger scheme of things, but it’s a start.
Soldier On isn’t the only one looking out for veterans. Latham resident Gloria Knorr is offering to sell her family’s land near the Colonie town library to create affordable housing for those who served in the military. She’s doing it in honor of her son, Tim, who took his own life when he couldn’t get past his Post Traumatic Stress Disorder from serving in the Gulf War.
For Knorr, the choice is an easy one. She said she wants to create a community where veterans can live together and help each other as they return to civilian life.
“With veterans, there is big unemployment, homelessness, drinking, jail time and they don’t feel welcome home,” said Knorr.
What Knorr and Soldier On are proposing may only be a drop in the bucket when it comes to helping veterans become citizens again, but it’s a very important one.