I first became actively involved with Veterans organizations in 1978 when I joined Military Riders Motorcycle Club, Chapter V, NJ. We held M/C runs and events to benefit the local DAV chapter. Coincidentally, the banner beneath our M/C club colors read:
“ We Care.” I later became President of Chapter V-NJ. I attended the early Rolling Thunder M/C runs held in Washington, DC to raise awareness of the POW/MIA issue. I was introduced to VvNW at a Rolling Thunder motorcycle run through its (then) Vice Commander, Mike Milne. I joined the VVnW in 1992, when NJ- 03 was formed.
In 1994, I read a news story about a homeless Veteran who died because he was sleeping in a large trash container. When the garbage truck picked up the container, the veteran was crushed inside the truck. I thought that’s no-way for someone who served their country and risked his life for our freedom and the freedom of others to have to live. And it’s certainly no-way for a US military veteran to die or to be remembered. Through my civilian work position in the electric power industry, I sought donated services of inner- city lawyers to council homeless veterans at a “Stand-Down” event in NJ. We learned that some Vets were living on the streets just because minor warrants had been issued against them, and they were afraid of being arrested and possibly imprisoned.
I rode along with (military veteran) officers of Camden, NJ’s Police Dept. patrolling the city, and I contacted other NJ PBA’ to help identify homeless veterans living on the streets in winter and to get warm coats to them.
Among my proudest accomplishments was helping to organize fundraising and manage construction of a town Veterans Memorial.
The two issues most important to me are America’s POW’s- MIA’s and its homeless veterans. I developed a lesson program that teaches school children and their teachers about the POW-MIA flag. The children write letters to the families of MIA’s. I keep abreast of US efforts to recover and bring home America’s MIA’s by attending national POW/MIA family organization regional meetings. I introduced a local ordinance to fly the POW/MIA flag at my town’s municipal building 24/7.
Through its nationwide “Beacon House Program,” VVnW and the Veterans Coalition has taken the lead among veterans organizations by assisting our homeless Veterans to transition from drug and alcohol dependency to living normal lives. And, to better deal with social phobias and integrate back into society. In the everyday course of our lives, each of us can make a difference in helping our fellow Veterans. What is said and what I believe about America never forgetting its POWs’ and MIA’s should also apply to our veterans in need: When one soldier’s life is not worth the effort to save, and when one American is not worth the effort to bring home, then we as Americans have lost.