Advocates for veterans held a resource fair Wednesday in Richmond, arguing that the men and women who served their country sometimes aren’t being given the services they need to resume civilian life.
Mayor Tom Butt, who spoke at the Veterans Day event, recalled his own army service 45 years ago.
“I’ve been blessed,” he said. “I got a home. I got a job. I’ve got good health. But one of the things that this day makes me think about is all the veterans that do not have all that.”
About 100 people attended the fair, held outside the Maine Avenue offices of the Veterans Resource Program, which hosted the ceremony. It was a sunny fall day and the audience was filled with families, fellow veterans dressed in their old uniforms from the community, and members of service organizations that can assist veterans.
Butt said he was concerned about the “many veterans that are homeless, many that do not have good health, and many who are looking for jobs.”
“The one thing that we all need to think about today is we have an obligation. We need to make sure our veterans have a place to live, have the best health care, and have a job if they want it,” he said.
The Veterans Resource Program was founded in 2011 by Rhonda Harris to assist veterans seeking housing, government benefits and educational opportunities.
Along with the mayor, City Councilmembers Nat Bates, Vinay Pimplé and Jovanka Beckles also called for more attention to veterans’ needs.
Returning service members “should be able to come back home and not just get ‘thank you’ and ‘we salute you,’” Beckles said. “It is about action. If you are a veteran and you get sick you should be able to go to any hospital and have them bill the United States Department of Veterans Affairs. We need to make our actions show that we really care about the sacrifices our veterans have made.”
U.S. Rep. Mark DeSaulnier had a staffer read a letter promising help for any veteran having trouble with a federal agency. Organizers also set up a booth to help veterans fill out benefit forms.
Ted Williams, a veteran of the Vietnam War, gave a brief history lesson.
“Veterans Day started as Armistice Day when the treaty was signed to end World War I. In the early 1920s it was made a national holiday as a day to recognize all veterans on the 11th month of the 11th day at the 11th hour,” he said. “I returned from my service in the Vietnam War, which was a very unpopular war. It took me almost 50 years to hear the words, ‘Thank you veteran, welcome home.’ We as a country should never let that happen again. These men and women are putting their life on the line so we at home can enjoy our freedom.”
Everyone joined in singing “God Bless America” and the ceremony ended.