Leave No Veteran Behind

I am starting this Memorial Day weekend thinking of veterans and how we, as a people, honor them.

Honoring Vets With Our Thoughts

Last week, I enjoyed being part of the crowd at a baseball game where fans stood and cheered at a saluting veteran broadcast on the big scoreboard. This week, as I tooled around in my car, I listened to several National Public Radio shows offering thought provoking experiences and points of view on Vietnam and Iraq and Afghanistan. One ex-soldier pushed listeners to go beyond the barbecues and softball games this weekend, to set aside some time to actively remember the men and women who have given their lives to protect us and people around the world.

This has also got me thinking about the soldiers that make it back home alive. Beyond the cheers and somber reflections, where is the clamor for embracing veterans back into the fabric of life on the home front?

Thoughts Alone Are Not Enough

We look first to the government as the primary resource for reintegration into society. But public funding for job training and health care – both physical and psychological – is insufficient. We need more.

Honoring Vets With Our Actions

Roy B. Sartin and Eli Williamson are doing more, much more. Both men grew up in my hometown, Chicago. Both went off to Luther College in Iowa. Both joined the US Army Reserves and both served in Iraq. Both finished their college education. I always thought that veterans received full scholarships to complete their education – a major incentive, I thought, to join up. But it turns out that many veterans like Sartin and Williamson are not covered. Soldiers put their lives on the line, then end up with big student loans and limited job opportunities.

Sartin and Williamson are answering my question: they are running an organization called Leave No Veteran Behind, to embrace veterans back into the fabric of life on the home front. And they are doing it in such a thoughtful, inspiring way that benefits not just veterans but also the communities they live in.

Leave No Veteran Behind (LNVB) does some pretty wonderful things. For veterans, there are retroactive scholarships covering student loans for education already received. There is also a multi-pronged job-training/placement program.

The Reciprocity of Community

For communities the soldiers return to, there are partnerships that involve veterans in growing the next generation.

  • Safe Passage. LNVB deploys veterans to patrol streets for students in high crime neighborhoods as they make their way home from school. The students get a two-for: increased safety and positive interaction with the adults of their community.
  • S.T.E.A.M Corps. LNVB partners with universities and non-profits to provide young people in their communities with training and apprenticeships. Another plus shows up here – a focus on protecting the environment. Jobs are really forward-looking – teaching skills such as urban gardening and repurposing non-recyclable materials to build high-end bikes and furniture.

I’m going into this Memorial Day weekend, grateful for the men and women who protect our way of life. This year, I am also inspired by the continued work of veterans on the home front. One community.

Share your Memorial Day stories.

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