Black Vets Face Obstacles on Home Front

Veterans Day

by: Hamil R. Harris Special to the AFRO
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Georgia Eaves can’t count how many Veterans Day parades and events she has participated in since she served as an Army Captain during the Vietnam War. While Eaves will take part in events in Washington, D.C. and Maryland this Veterans Day weekend she said her heart is heavy because of how she sees veterans being treated, today.

Vietnam Veteran Georgia Eaves attended Veterans Prayer Breakfast in 2016. She is not pleased with the way veterans are treated. (Courtesy photo)

“A lot of young veterans are not being given the same opportunities as veterans from other cultures but we are all part of the same system,” said Eaves, the D.C. commander of the National Black American Veterans Association.

Eaves’ sentiments are being echoed by James A. Dula, a retired Air Force Major who is chairman of the South (Prince George’s) County Democratic Club. “All Vietnam era veterans have been left out of the equation,” he said. “When we came home there were no parades or celebrations. We came home with post traumatic stress disorder.”

Taking note of the mass shooting that took place near San Antonio, Texas, Dula said he wasn’t surprised the 26-year-old suspect was an Air Force veteran. “I saw a lot of people coming through who shouldn’t have been in the Air Force,” Dula said. “Look at this man. He assaulted his wife, his child and that led him to be court-marshaled and dishonorably discharged.”

Greg Crawford, director of access housing, said Veterans can do well with support services. Crawford’s father, who was one of the first Blacks elected to the D.C. Council and now deceased member H.R. Crawford, who was a Republican, founded the veterans group that provides temporary and permanent housing for veterans as well as other critical services needed to transition them from homelessness to self-sufficiency.

The concept of a Veteran’s Center started in the 1970s, after the older Crawford, who represented Ward 7, received a call about a group of homeless men who had created an encampment under a bridge near Georgetown. “We shared a meal of fried chicken and hot coffee that had been prepared on a hot plate,” Crawford told the AFRO in 2016.

The experience was catalyst for the founding of Access Housing and earlier this week Crawford said unfortunately homeless people are still living under the same bridge.

Crawford died Feb. 10 at age 78. He was remembered as a zealous advocate for residents of Ward 7 and he will be honored during a Veterans Day program at the Southeast Veterans center on Nov. 8.

While veterans continue to have issues, Greg said things are getting better nationally. “In January of 2016, communities across America identified 39,471 homeless veterans during point-in-time counts. This represents a substantial decrease (56 percent) in the number of homeless veterans counted in 2010,” he said.

In terms of going forward, Greg said: “We have to band together,” and while Eaves was critical of Trump, Greg is giving him the benefit of the doubt. “It’s only been 10 months and as a community we have to raise awareness about those who have made the sacrifices for this country,” he said.

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