WHIPPANY, NJ- Veterans Day is here and brings with it the opportunity for us to ask ourselves what we have done lately for this country’s greatest heroes. It is a disheartening and unacceptable fact that 20 American veterans commit suicide every single day. That is over 7,000 military men and women every year. These deaths were not on foreign soil, they were not torn asunder by antipersonnel mines or machine guns far from home. They were here, under our very noses.
Many veterans return from service without basic necessities such as legal assistance, access to medical services, housing and jobs. These are all areas that Welcome Home Vets of NJ excel in providing to former service members of all conflict eras.
As the Welcome home vets of NJ says, “Our goal is simple: Take care of our military families; our soldiers and veterans in need.”
The volunteer organization was created in July of 2009 when it became clear to founder George Hanley that the men and women returning home from Afghanistan and Iraq had vital needs that were not being met by the current support structure available to them. A veteran of the Vietnam War, Hanley and many others involved in the organization saw firsthand a generation of soldiers received home without the level of respect and care that they earned in fighting for their country.
“I use that name (Welcome Home Vets of NJ) because it’s very symbolic to Vietnam vets,” Hanley said, commenting about the organization’s namesake. “When we meet each other, we say welcome home. We do that because no one welcomed us home.”
Knowing firsthand the help that our veterans need when they come home, Hanley created this organization to give these people that extra bit of help. Especially in the shadow of the current economic recession many GI’s come home from fighting only to fight more through mortgage battles or home foreclosures. Working with several organizations across New Jersey including Community Hope, Catholic Charities, and the Department of Veterans Affairs, Welcome Home Vets of NJ helps to provide economic stability, housing and many other social services to veterans across the state.
One fact that Hanley is very proud of is that all of the funds donated to Welcome Home Vets of NJ goes directly to helping the veterans in need. There are no salaries, no commissions and nothing gets in the way of every penny being used to better the life of the heroes that need it most.
“That was one thing I started right from the beginning is that no one gets paid. That’s the deal,” Hanley went on to say. “We don’t want that mixed in. We want to help vets and that’s it.”
The organizations draws most of its funds from one big fundraiser every year that is a tailgate style barbeque cook out on the eve of a football game. There is a blind raffle and silent auction and all proceeds go to the vets. The fundraiser this year is still on a date to be decided, but it is always a big event.
To honor this Veterans Day, you can learn more about volunteer opportunities and donate to Welcome Home Vets of NJ at their website, http://www.welcomehomevetsofnj.org/.