Homeless veteran shares his story

By Philippe Djegal - email
Posted by Ellen Krafve - bio | email

TYLER, TX (KLTV) - On any given night, more than 130,000 veterans sleep on park benches, under bridges and living without a roof over their head.

Why? East Texas vet, James Harris, shares his story.

"I joined because I wanted to serve my country, [I wanted to] serve my country because I love freedom, and I put my life on the line for my country," said Harris.

Korean War veteran James Harris, 67, says he'll never forget his time in the Army.

"I enjoyed it," said Harris. "I was a young man. I encourage all young men to join the military."

But, for Harris, life after service has not been easy. He once had a family, but, now, he eats his meals alone. Harris is one of more than 180,000 vets living on the streets.

"I travel quite a bit, you know," said Harris. "I move around, you know, since I don't have a family anymore."

The V.A. says that 25 percent of all homeless Americans are veterans.

"It's mainly due to adjusting to the system," said Harris. "See, I did some time at TDC. I got with the wrong crowd."

"When you're in combat, you deal with a lot of different situations - highly stressful - and just being able to come back and deprogram from that mindset and then deprogram back into daily living is probably one of the hardest adjustments for a soldier," said Steve Houston, with the Salvation Army.

"In service, I prayed a lot, you know," said Harris. "You gotta pray to make it in this world these days. You gotta pray."

The Salvation Army encourages vets to contact the Veterans Administration.

Then, you can take advantage of some V.A.'s benefits, such as disability payments, and the new G.I. Bill, which helps pay for education and vocational training.

Helpful Links:
National Coalition for Homeless Veterans: http://www.nchv.org/ 
U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs: http://www.va.gov/ 
New G.I. Bill: http://www.newgibill.org/

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