RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - Too many U.S. veterans are homeless this holiday season, and many more are having a tough time landing a job once they come home from the service. The McGuire VA Medical Center is offering free services and gifts to help direct them on the right path.
Hundreds of veterans and homeless men and women lined up for free clothes and medical care inside the VA clinic. A bigger message lies underneath the piles of clothes: to help homeless vets get homes and jobs. That's exactly what the program did for veteran Edger Greene.
"Oh man, I can breathe now," said Greene. "It's clear to see where god has me going. Before it seemed closed off. Now I can breathe a little more."
So can the other men and woman here. Professionals offered free medical exams which they wouldn't be able to afford anywhere else. The same goes for many of these winter clothes people donated to keep these vets warm.
"The community has responded very well with their donations and we are very excited because we have tons of supplies for people," said McGuire Social Work Services Chief, Robin Jackson.
They're items that many unemployed servicemen will need. As more men and women come home from war, Jackson knows it will be hard for them to find jobs.
"The environment has changed," Jackson said. "The community has changed a lot since people have been back from war, and we want to have everything in place for them to make that transition."
The unemployment rate for veterans, ages 18-24, has jumped in the past year. About 18% from 2010 to more than 30% of those surveyed in 2011 according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That's not nearly as drastic for non-veterans the same age.
"I know it's going to be hard on these brothers now," Greene noted. "They're younger than I am. They're 18, 19, you know, and they don't have anywhere to come back to."
Edger was in their shoes when he returned from war. The VA clinic uses this event as one of the many ways to help people transition from combat mode to the work force.
Simple things like donating blankets and boots mean so much to these veterans during this Christmas season. Combat veterans looking for additional services can visit the Richmond Vet Center at 4902 Fitzhugh Ave., or visit the website at www.vetcenter.va.gov.