Co-authored by Mathieu Eugene
As we set out to enjoy the kickoff of summer fun this Memorial Day weekend, let's also remember the men and women who gave their lives for America and those who are still protecting us every day.
In a few months time, we will begin to see more of these men and women returning home from deployments. Some will be reunited with their families briefly then redeployed and others will return to civilian life. Reentering civilian life is never easy. There are many veterans who have been home for decades, still battling the demons of war and not receiving the support they need.
To put this in perspective, according to the 2000 Census, approximately 300,000 veterans live in New York City. Of course, this data does not take into account the most recent Veterans returning from operations in support of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
This Memorial Day let's commit to doing a better job in empowering our current and homecoming veterans in finding jobs and housing, healthcare and social services. Many veterans throughout the city, including those just returning home from Iraq and Afghanistan, are struggling to connect with these services and those that provide them.
Last week, New York became the fist city in the nation to form a partnership with an innovative, low cost, effort geared to connect and assist veterans of the past and present. The City Council announced the launch of a free web portal to assist veterans adjusting to life at home. At WARRIORGATEWAY.ORG veterans can quickly and easily access information about benefits and services like healthcare, housing, and job training, counseling, and academic opportunities.
Regardless of our politics, when it comes to the men and women in uniform we must be there for them in helping them adjust to civilian life and provide them with access to the most current and accurate information. These men and women put their lives on the line in service to America, and too often we've witnessed the heartbreak of veterans slipping through the cracks of society after they return home.
When reentering civilian life, our men and women in uniform should be assured of a helping hand: with guidance a given, assistance when necessary, and support every step of the way<
This Memorial Day--between marching in parades and passing the ketchup at the barbecue--we have to ask ourselves this question: what can each of us do in our own lives for veterans? We hope other cities will follow New York's lead and we urge all New Yorkers to challenge us with new ways to do better and come up with new ideas on how to assist those who have sacrificed so much for America.
Quinn is the Speaker of the New York City Council and Eugene is the Chair of the Council's Committee on Veterans.
Follow Christine C. Quinn on Twitter: www.twitter.com/chriscquinn