As a country, we are somewhat inconsistent with our treatment of veterans. Lately, veterans as a group are spoken about with a kind of reverence that can actually make veterans themselves uncomfortable. Two recent controversies erupted over pictures of service members whose social media posts were deemed “disrespectful” by the public-at-large and those who commented did so out of “respect” for veterans. Yet, in practice, veteran suicide is still staggering and homelessness and unemployment still plague the community.
The executive director of Arizona’s State Parks Bryan Martyn heard a suicide statistic on the radio and decided to take what action he could. Since then, Arizona launched a pilot program that hires homeless veterans as park rangers, earning them a good wage and giving them a place to live.
According to Fox News, Army veteran Carlos Garcia earns “$12 an hour and [lives] in a FEMA trailer” on the park grounds. He’s been able to save money, lose weight, and even reestablish contact with his family. So far, the program only has four participants, but it has received accolades from Arizona Governor Jan Brewer. In an editorial for AZCentral.com, Brewer wrote that “homeless veterans have been deprived of the comforts and security that most of us take for granted — blessings, ironically, that they themselves faced injury and death to secure for their fellow citizens.”
Along with the job and the roof over their heads, the veterans also are given access to the VA for counseling and medical treatment. “We ensure that we work with the Veterans Administration and get these guys counseling services that are available and the VA has been great about providing follow-up and checking on them,” Martyn told Fox. Brewer said in her editorial that the Arizona model is one that could work across the nation.