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Why we should support our community’s veterans

By Dr. Howard B. Slaughter, Jr., U.S. Navy Defense Intelligence Agency (pentagon) and U.S. Army 479th Field Artillery Brigade Reserves Veteran and President and CEO, Habitat for Humanity of Greater Pittsburgh

In 2017, United Way’s PA 2-1-1 Southwest received nearly 4,500 contacts from veterans here in our region that needed help. Whether they were facing unemployment, transportation issues, homelessness, or having trouble meeting other basic needs, 2-1-1 helped guide them to resources to get them back on their feet.

As a veteran, I can relate to the struggles my fellow veteran community members face upon returning home after serving. It can be hard to readjust, especially after witnessing horrific events and experiencing tragedy and in some cases loneliness.

We should all stand together with our region’s veterans and help them succeed. After all, they have sacrificed so very much for our safety. Here are my top five reasons we should support our community’s veterans:

  1. The courage to serve lasts a lifetime. Thousands upon thousands of people benefit from the service of veterans, but it takes a lot of courage for people to raise their hand and serve their country. Few people have that courage. We must keep in mind the incredible bravery veterans have and realize the life-long sacrifice they have made for our freedom.
  1. Everyone who serves is a wounded warrior, even if they come back without physical impairments. Many assume that if someone comes back from fighting or serving and are not physically wounded, they’re okay, but that is simply not always the case. When someone serves their country, they are wounded in the sense that they have given up their time and life experiences with family and friends. They could have witnessed gruesome events, and now have to adjust to an entirely different way of life, even when we don’t witness the effects of their pain.

Before I went into the military, I never shot a gun. I never thought I would be learning how to make bombs with my own hands. I also didn’t think I would experience what it’s like to be in a gas chamber.  All these things had an impact on me. When you come back, you slowly begin to deal with all of the experiences during the years you served.

  1. Heroism comes from within. Today, the word “hero” is used so casually, but every single person who serves their country is a true hero. Whether they have a purple heart or not, they took on the responsibility to protect their country. That’s true heroism if you ask me.
  1. A strong military is a deterrent to a protracted war. Without our veterans and individuals on active duty, we would not be able to have a strong military and our safety would be in jeopardy. We are blessed to have so many dedicated heroes join the military to defend our country and our constitutional rights.
  1. Anybody who serves is sacrificing for their family and their country. A lot of men and women in the military leave their home for a year or two — many with families back home. That’s not easy to do, and you never get that time back. This basic sacrifice is extremely important to understand and always remember.

Because of these reasons veterans should be treated with respect and dignity and not have a difficult time gaining employment, becoming a homeowner and receiving proper medical attention, if needed.  Supporting veterans with their basic needs and helping them deal with the vicissitudes of life after the military is the right thing to do.

At Habitat for Humanity of Greater Pittsburgh, and through our work with United Way and 2-1-1, we are focused on helping more veterans become homeowners because we know housing is an important element in matriculating back into society.

To learn more about United Way’s work with veterans in our community and see how you can get involved, visit https://uwswpa.org/mission-united/.