This month, our nation and its people will take time to commemorate Veterans Day, an annual holiday when we remember those men and women who served in our military to protect our freedoms and democratic way of life. It might be difficult to believe that Long Island, and especially Suffolk County is home to the second largest population of veterans living in the United States, only second to San Diego, California. For the men and women who served our country during war time or times of war, life on the home front can sometimes prove to be as difficult as life on the front lines.
Veterans on Long Island who served during WWII, Korea, Viet Nam, Desert Storm, or more recently in Afghanistan or Iraq faced life threatening challenges, and for many returning home has brought our veterans new challenges. Many of our veterans continue to struggle with the realities of being diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and the need for continued mental health treatment. The current drug epidemic including opioid and Heroin addiction hasn’t spared our veterans or their families living with this painful reality. Multiple deployments to the Middle East to fight the war on Terrorism have resulted in many returning soldiers facing dysfunction at home trying to cope with financial trauma, marital stress and unemployment. Accessing comprehensive and coordinated health care has often been difficult for veterans in need upon re-entry to civilian life. With all of these challenges facing our veterans, returning soldiers and their families it becomes essential that community-based services are readily available to address the myriad of needs that this segment of our population has. Thankfully, Long Island has developed a workable infrastructure of coordinated services available to respond to the need for emergency housing, employment training, supported residential care, job placement, mental health and substance abuse services, family counseling, financial assistance, education, systems advocacy, and general needs for clothing and food.
Long Island Cares assists approximately 400 veterans each month through our mobile outreach programs, satellite centers and in our Vets Work project. The regional food bank is just one of many organizations that provide services to our veterans and their families. The rewarding aspect for us is the collaboration and partnerships that the organizations we work with strive for. There is no competition and the needs of our veterans are paramount. Whether we’re partnering with United Way of Long Island, the Veterans Administration Center in Northport, United Veterans Beacon House, Joseph P. Dwyer
Project, Suffolk and Nassau County Veterans Services Office, EOC Suffolk, General Needs and other non-profit or government services, the response we collectively share is that our veterans receive the best care and services possible. It’s one thing to think about our men and women fighting or serving in foreign or hostile lands each Veterans Day but, we should never have to fight to insure that the services our veterans deserve are provided when they’re home on Veterans Day.
This article initially appeared in the HIA-LI Reporter, November, 2016