Honoring Our VetsNovember 6th, 2009
by Megan Pippet
Call me an idealist but I dream of a day when war is only read about in the history books. I wish for a day when I can open up the New York Times or watch the World News report and not hear about violence in Afghanistan, conflict in Iraq and aggression in countries all across the world. Whether or not the future holds any such promise, I don’t know. What I do know is that today we are at war and there are thousands of soldiers who risk their lives every single day for my sake, many of whom return from battle wounded.
Here, at St. Anthony’s, a large population of those we serve are wounded veterans. Some have missing limbs and must rely on wheelchairs for accessibility. Others have a less visible, but no less debilitating, wound called Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD.) A common thread for all of the veterans we see in our Dining Room, is that they come to share a meal with friends, a place where they can feel respected and even sometimes thanked for their service. We also work to provide information for our vets about resources and services in the community that are available to them.
This semester, several University of San Francisco students enrolled in a service-learning course have teamed up with St. Anthony’s to learn more about veterans’ issues and the needs of those who come to St. Anthony’s. The service-learners have served meals in our Dining Room, have read news articles about war and have recently watched a Frontline special with me detailing the experiences of several veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. Today, several of the students are sitting alongside representatives from the Veterans Affairs department to learn more about what types of services our homeless vets most need and how to make information about those resources available to those who want it. The students will use all of the information they have gathered throughout the semester and create a veterans resource board that will hang in the lobby of St. Anthony’s Dining Room. This participatory learning experience transcends classroom objectives and provides a forum for students to use what they have learned to provide a value-added service to the community. Check back with St. Anthony’s next month to see the finished bulletin board and what new service-learning projects we have on the horizon! And don’t forget that next Wendesday, November 11th is Veterans Day!