Independence Day is almost a month away, but I am already looking forward to it because—you guessed it—the food. Barbecued chicken and ribs, potato salad, and deviled eggs, all in the same meal? It’s almost too good to be true. However, the holiday also moves me beyond just my stomach.
To mark the day, I hang the American flag on the front porch if it’s not raining. This simple act always reminds me of the many service members who have helped defend our nation. Being in the military must be a very challenging experience, so I am thankful there are resources available to military personnel after they serve. One such resource is the U.S. Department of Veterans’ Affairs.
Local veteran service officers can help veterans navigate the many useful programs offered in their area. The resources they offer include help finding employment, starting or continuing an education ,or launching a small business. The U.S. Department of Veterans’ Affairs also helps people who are transitioning from active duty to civilian life, which can be a complicated process.
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs website features an easy-to-navigate section on health topics. Some are of general interest (like cataracts), while others are topics of specific interest to service members (like readjustment counseling). One of the department’s more pressing challenges is to provide support for homeless veterans or recently discharged service members. The National Coalition for Homeless Veterans estimates that about 12% of homeless people at any given time in the U.S. are veterans.
One local group that’s fighting homelessness is C-U at Home. Executive Director Melany Jackson and her dedicated volunteers support our most vulnerable homeless citizens. Their annual fundraiser, One Winter Night, encourages public service figures, community leaders, business leaders, academic leaders, and other community members to spend the night outside in a cardboard box.
“The percentage of homeless veterans has not diminished in recent years,” Melany told me. “They typically face complex situations that need to be addressed. We strive to match them with the many services available in our area. The public awareness and donations generated by our event helps us fund this very important work.”
I know many of you have served in the military or have friends and family who have served. Health Alliance Medicare thanks all those who have protected this country and allow us to continue celebrating Independence Day. This year I plan on being more about the flag and less about the food.
Patrick Harness is a community liaison with a long history of experience in health insurance. If you ask him to pick a color, he always chooses orange, and he is known for his inability to parallel park.