It's the final day in a month-long effort nationwide urging companies to hire veterans struggling to return to the workforce. As in times past, some veterans become homeless. Yesterday, volunteers from Texas Home Health Hospice held Operation Stand Down to help the homeless with health care, and were surprised to see how many veterans were among them.
"The population of homeless veterans in Longview would probably be staggering to people," says Teresa Vinson, the executive director at Home Health Hospice in Longview.
Chaz Cottrell was in the Marines, serving two tours in Iraq and one in Afghanistan, and came home only to end up living on the streets.
"You don't know how frustrating it is to go to an interview and them say well we're looking for someone with more experience but thank you for serving our country that's kind of a kick in the teeth. I suffer from PTSD, I drank to get rid of that and I turned to harder drugs so I wouldn't sleep," he says.
Vets were given everything from reading glasses to health exams and something more.
"I was able to put my arm around them, carry them directly to the source and get immediate need for them," says volunteer coordinator Barbara Lingle.
"I never thought that I would be homeless, I always thought that I would find work," Chaz says.
Cottrell is in a recovery program at Highway 80 Rescue Mission.
"Did I ever think I would end up in the tent in the woods? No! Did I ever think I would end up in a homeless shelter? No," he says.
Veterans have fought, suffered and done everything their country has asked them to do. They only want a chance to start over.
"Veterans have given us so much and we owe them so much," Vinson says.
According to government data, veterans make up 13 percent of the homeless population. In Longview that number is 18 percent.
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