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Jonathan Kraut: Returning vets need our assistance

Posted: October 30, 2012 2:00 a.m.
Updated: October 30, 2012 2:00 a.m.

Jarrett enlisted out of high school in 2007 and was assigned to the Army’s 1st of the 32nd Infantry at Fort Drum, N.Y.

When I asked Jarrett why he enlisted, he gave three reasons. First, his “dad,” the man who adopted Jarrett while he was young, was a Vietnam vet, and Jarrett always wondered if he had what it takes to follow in his dad’s footsteps.

Second, Jarrett felt it his patriotic duty to serve our nation.

Third, Jarrett thought military training would prepare him for the rest of his life to help others, recalling his dad’s words: “If one person needs help, you need to go in and fight for them.”

After just a year on active duty, Jarrett recalls hearing a large explosion during a training exercise. The next thing he remembers is being carried away on a stretcher by medics.

“I had some brain trauma and some short- and long-term memory loss,” Jarrett confesses. “I was finally released from service in 2010.”

“At first, I went back home to Canyon Country but could not find steady work. Once I took my military service off my resume, however, I got more calls and more interviews, but still no steady work.

“Then I went out to San Bernardino because I heard there were more jobs out there and because I had learned my biological dad was very ill.”

Within 12 hours after his biological dad passed away, Jarrett learned that his adopted dad had died, as well.

Jarrett then recalls: “I went back home to Canyon Country. My mom in the following months lost everything and ended up having to live in her car. My younger brother was taken in by friends and now is attending college.

“Still not finding work, I didn’t want to be a burden to my mom, so I decided to just live on the street. I slept behind a Starbucks. People would always tell me to go to a shelter or to call this or that number.”

He continued, “There are no shelters out here except in the winter. I called every number. Finally, a few months ago, I called Bridge To Home.

“Now I am in my second month of a nine-month technical school and they are putting me up in a hotel. I hope to get back on my feet one day, and in the future start a nonprofit that will help people just like me.”

Jarrett’s story touches me for many reasons. I was an infantry officer and I know the commitment and selflessness of soldiers. In fact, I took my troops to Fort Drum for winter training to “appreciate” two months of 20-degrees-below-zero weather.

I am reminded one in four homeless folks are veterans. I am reminded that a great nation does not abandon those just because they need help. I am reminded to not vote for those who see wealth as an entitlement.

And I am reminded of the fine work offered by the SCV Winter Shelter and Bridge to Home Project, and of our other fine nonprofit services that offer aid to our hungry, our unemployed, and our homeless.

Jarrett is a fine young man with a California Guard card and private security training. He would like an evening security job so he can continue to go to school and start paying his own way.

I hope you look at people who are less fortunate than yourself, not as less deserving, but as those who might one day rise above their circumstances and become able to serve others.

Finally, join our 16th annual CROP Walk on Monday, Nov. 12 — Veterans Day. In addition to the Bridge to Home Program, the walk supports the Church of Hope Food Pantry, the FISH Program, which offers free hot meals, and Family Promise, which supports homeless families with school-aged children.

Ask your neighbors, friends, and congregations for donations. Sponsored by the SCV Interfaith Council, the 2.4-mile course starts at 8:30 a.m. from St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church at Lyons and Old Orchard.

If you can’t make the walk, donate online or contact Church World Services CROP Walk coordinator Julie at 626-296-3195.

I will ask Jarrett to join us.

Jonathan Kraut serves in the Democratic Party of the SCV, on the SCV Human Relations Forum, and on the SCV Interfaith Council. His column reflects his own views and not necessarily those of The Signal or other organizations.



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