A Day of Help for Vets in Need

By Greg Cergol
|  Friday, Apr 23, 2010  |  Updated 7:33 PM EDT
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A <a title=Vietnam War veteran organizes help for some of Long Island's 3500 homeless vets. The jobless rate for vets under 25 is 30%." />

A Vietnam War veteran organizes help for some of Long Island's 3500 homeless vets. The jobless rate for vets under 25 is 30%.

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These military veterans don't have much.

Their needs run the gamut from medical attention to things as basic as a haircut.

But more than a hundred Long Island vets got those things and more at a so-called "Stand Down" at Suffolk Community College in Brentwood, a gathering of volunteers offering  food, clothing, eyeglasses, medical check-ups and even legal assistance.

It's "to pay all the bills and be gainfully employed is tough right now," lamented homeless, jobless Army vet Ron Knight, who once drove tanks during the "Desert Storm" conflict.

An estimated 3,500 Long Island vets are homeless, according to statistics cited by Tom Ronayne, Suffolk County's Director of Veterans' Services.

"We're seeing a lot of it," said Ronayne. "We're seeing more younger folks who are homeless and even homeless families."

Part of the reason is that the unemployment rate for veterans under age 25 now stands at a staggering thirty percent and, according to Ronayne,  for the first time ever, the jobless rate among vets is outpacing jobless numbers for the general population.

"I have been out of work a few months," said Christian Jones, an Army vet who served in Iraq.

Like others at the "Stand Down," Jones carried a large plastic bag, collecting whatever clothing and supplies he could fit inside.

It was only a brief respite from their difficult, personal struggles; but, most of the vets welcomed it.

"I feel the camaraderie here," said Thomas Von Braunsberg, a one-time member of Army intelligence who now suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder from his time serving in Somalia.

"I live on an Army disability income," said Von Braunsberg.

"My family struggles to get by from month to month so we come here to see what help we can get.  It's great."

"No veteran should want for a job or a place to live," said Ronayne, as volunteers packed up after the four hour gathering.

"It's our obligation to do everything we can to help those who served our nation."

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