Reaching out to forgotten veterans
Siblings honor memory of their father –
and provide simple necessities to Veterans Home residents
They are Persian Gulf War veterans and fathers fighting to stay sober. They served in Vietnam, some fought in the Gulf War, some in Bosnia and Iraq- and some are woman. All are someone’s children, parents, brothers or sisters, or friends and all have given their lives for the freedoms many Americans take for granted.
Each night, more than 275,000 veterans will sleep under bridges, in alleys and abandoned buildings because they have no home. They are this nation’s forgotten heroes – men and women who once proudly served in a military uniform.
Living in Cottage 16 at the Union Grove Veterans Home
on a transient basis are approximately 40 displaced veterans
trying to get their lives on track. Thanks to the efforts of
siblings Steve Good,Dawn Clough and Judy Good-Alexander,
the veterans are getting some of the respect they deeply deserve.
After 80-year-old Evan Good, a Navy veteran
who served during World War II passed away in Boland Hall
at the Veterans Home in October 2008, his children
couldn’t stay away.
“We had made some really close friends with other residents
after our dad’s stroke seven months before he passed,”
said Steve.”My sisters kept coming to bring personal care items,
clothing, blankets – whatever they could bring. They often
brought in homemade treats for the residents and staff,
but because the veterans where our dad was were on
restricted diets, we were introduced to the residents
of Cottage 16.”
Perhaps it is because they never ask for anything,
yet offered themselves as the ultimate sacrifice,
that the family decided to go a step further to provide them
with a special dinner. On Nov. 4, Steve’s company,
Spring Green Lawn Care in Union Grove hosted a dinner
at the Veterans Home to honor the veterans from past wars.
“We provided homemade pork loin, chickens, potato salad,
coleslaw, breads and desserts,” said Steve, choking back
tears. “Dad was a good man and he was always there to help,
but never expected anything in return – even after serving
our country, he never asked. We did this to honor his legacy
and give these veterans a boost at the end of this trying year.
We don’t do any of
this for ourselves and we don’t want any recognition –
we are just doing it for them.”
In addition, the family sisters hosted a chili supper in
October and are busy collecting coats, blankets, pillows
and toiletries to provide the veterans with a bit of much needed
comfort during our cold Wisconsin winters. According to
Judy, their efforts, now known as the
“Good Friends of Cottage 16” began by
expressing her anger at a government who
she said chooses to provide more benefits
to illegal immigrants and prisoners than
for those who shed their blood so all Americans can walk free.
“I began writing e-mails to everyone, and my husband,
who is a 25-year veteran told me that I was taking the light
off the need and putting it on the problem. He was
right and I decided to do something,” she said.
“One time when I dropped
my dad’s clothes off to the veterans, I asked them,
‘What can I do for you?'”
A stunned Judy learned that the homeless residents
needed simple items like shaving cream, razors,
toothbrushes,toothpaste, pillows, blankets, hats and mittens.
She and her
sister began visiting rummage sales, thrift stores, grocery
stores to purchase supplies and spread the word.
She e-mailed large and small corporations begging for help –
but no one seemed to be listening.
“I felt like a small whisper in the middle of a
hurricane and came up with rejections all the time.
I am just really sad to know that so few people care about
anyone else,” she said.”And then one day, I got an e-mail
from Steve and it still chokes
me up today. He said he had been reading my e-mails and
wanted to help. It really hit me emotionally that my brother
was there and was listening and being a hero. He paid his
employees for a day off to put on this dinner – he has truly
touched my heart.”
Determined to stay united, the Good Friends of
Cottage 16 are determined to continue their mission
to bring awareness
to the many faces of homeless veterans and
to find ways to help.
Government figures show that former
members of the United States
military comprise less than 13 percent of the
American adult population,
yet veterans account for roughly 33 percent of the
population. Many struggle with Post Traumatic
Stress Disorder, separation from families and friends
during extended periods of
time, limited applicability of their military
training in the civilian
workforce, or service connected disabilities.
Compounding the difficulty of homeless
veterans is the widely accepted belief that the Veterans
Administration takes care of all
veterans in need. The fact is, according
to its own data, the VA, in
conjunction with all other federal
programs reach fewer than 20
percent of the homeless veterans in this country.
“It is hard for me to believe these brave
men and women who were willing to die for us,
are not even able to look
into the mirror and do something as simple
as shave or brush
their teeth. Something is terribly
wrong,” Judy said. “We need to let them know
that they are not forgotten.”
The whisper seems to be growing louder as the
Kiwanis Club of Southeast Wisconsin
has aligned with the Good Friends of Cottage 16,
and will be hosting a fundraiser
in February to aid the veterans.
At the Nov. 4 dinner, Harold Enger,
director of education from the corporate
office of Spring-Green in
Plainfield, Ill., presented a check, warm clothing,
and personal care
items to the Veterans home.
“See what can happen with one little voice
that speaks to
another voice,” said Judy.
“You gain power and that is how
you gain a voice and how you get empowered.
We couldn’t do any of this without the people
who have stepped up to help.”
|‘They Stood for Us – Now Stand for Them’
A Veterans Day ceremony is Wednesday, Nov. 11, at 11 a.m. Maurer Hall at the Wisconsin Veterans Home, Union Grove. Veterans and their families and the public are invited to attend.
The keynote speaker will be Wisconsin Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary John A. Scocos.
Scocos recently returned from his second tour of duty in Iraq.
Speaking also will be Brigadier General Dominic Cariello, the assistant adjutant general for readiness and training for the Wisconsin Army National Guard.
Veterans from their respective service branches will post the service flags. .
For more information about the Veterans Day ceremony in Union Grove, call (262) 878-6700.
For information on Veterans Day, go to http://www.WisVets.com/VeteransDay. For information on other veterans programs and services, visit http://www.WisVets.com or call 1-800-WIS-VETS (1-800-947-8387).