American GI Forum makes sure Military City, USA won’t forget our brave soldiers

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August 24, 2019 By Richard Zowie
Veteran residents gather at AGIF’s Residential Center for Veterans (RCV). The RCV provides 60 single room occupancy apartments and 80 transitional housing beds for veterans in San Antonio.
Veteran residents gather at AGIF’s Residential Center
for Veterans (RCV). The RCV provides 60 single
room occupancy apartments and 80 transitional
housing beds for veterans in San Antonio.

Carlos Martinez spent four years in the U.S. Air Force during the Vietnam Era. When he returned home, he didn’t like what he saw. Vietnam veterans weren’t respected after fighting a controversial war drawing countless protests.

“Veterans then were badly treated by the general public and because of that trend, services for them weren’t readily available,” Carlos recalls. “This reminded me of how Hispanic military veterans didn’t get the services or attention they needed after World War II.”

In 1972 in San Antonio, Carlos joined the American GI Forum in founding the National Veterans Outreach Program (AGIF-NVOP) to serve veterans hands on at the community level. Today, he is the president and CEO. 

Carlos estimates that 60 percent of their clients are homeless veterans, and that 25 percent are the families of veterans. The CEO adds that many veterans like to move to “Military City, USA” (San Antonio) once finished with their service. They’re now seeing an additional 20-30 veterans per month come in for services! 

Lackland Air Force Base volunteers serve food to veterans at AGIF’s 2018 Stand Down for Veterans.
Lackland Air Force Base volunteers
serve food to veterans at AGIF’s
2018 Stand Down for Veterans.

Among their programs:

Veterans Service Center: A one-stop place for the Homeless Veterans Reintegration Program, Basic Skills Upgrade and Clothing Closet.

Residential Center for Veterans: Individually tailored job counseling, employment services, chemical dependency counseling, daily meal service and community reintegration programs. 

NVOP also provides housing for disabled or homeless veterans with families.

Annually, NVOP hosts a Veterans Day Stand Down, where they help 500 homeless veterans and individuals by providing various services from more than 50 community partners and nonprofits. 

Manuel DeLeO, a Vietnam veteran, thanks American GI Forum, Wells Fargo and the Home Depot Foundation for donating his newly renovated home.
Manuel DeLeO, a Vietnam veteran, thanks American GI Forum,
Wells Fargo and the Home Depot Foundation for donating his newly
renovated home.

Since 1972, the program has served almost 500,000 veterans. Included among them are Seth Jarmon and Derrick Sanchez.

Seth served in the U.S. Army as a Hawk Missile crew member. After the military, he struggled with drugs and a lifestyle which led to prison. Knowing that substance abuse led to his homelessness, Seth sought treatment. After completing rehab, he came to AGIF for employment. His trust in God led him to success, stability and becoming an AGIF Outreach Specialist. Carlos now describes Seth as a “highly-committed Christian;” Seth has worked four years for the organization as an outreach specialist.

I think so often veterans are overlooked. They sacrifice so much, sometimes everything, and are given very little to nothing in return for that sacrifice. The NVOP is a huge resource in our co mmunity for veterans and their families. They provide counseling, job training, and family services to name a few. I think what’s most important, though, is that they restore dignity in our veterans who just need some help. We need to be supporting that.
Elisia Carr, Marketing Coordinator, Documation
Elisia Carr
, Marketing Coordinator, Documation

 

A veteran and a GI Forum case manager work together. AGIF provides job training, interview coaching and resume writing assistance.
A veteran and a GI Forum case
manager work together. AGIF
provides job training, interview
coaching and resume writing assistance.

Derrick, who spent eight years as a U.S. Navy Sonar Technician, had difficulties transitioning to civilian life. Through the program, he received support services such as counseling and training to upgrade his skills. He now works for the organization as an intake certification specialist. “He’s done a great job for us,” Carlos says. 

They’re now seeing an additional 20-30 veterans per month come in for services! 

“The 450,000 veterans we’ve served well. Most have gone on and have lived their lives. With these men and women, it is truly a privilege to watch their transformations and successes.”

The veteran residents living at the center are invited to attend a Bible Study Fellowship Bible study; typically a group of 10-15 may attend. To serve its clients, the Outreach Program also relies on a network of agencies: St. Vincent de Paul, Christian dental clinics, Church Under the Bridge, Travis Park United Methodist Church and Chrysalis Ministries. They are involved in soup kitchens, community events, job training and housing. These ministries also assist with school supplies, food banks and make sure the veterans get the medical and mental health treatment they need. “We’re launching our own mental health unit for after-hour services,” Carlos says. 

A stylist provides a mirror for a veteran after a haircut at the 2017 Stand Down for Veterans. At the yearly event, American GI Forum also provides flu shots, clothes, and emergency food.
A stylist provides a mirror for a veteran
after a haircut at the 2017 Stand Down
for Veterans. At the yearly event,
American GI Forum also provides
flu shots, clothes, and emergency food.

The program also relies on funding through state and federal grants, along with other agencies.“Nonprofits always have more work than they have money,” Carlos says. “We try to find as many resources as we can. We do have foundation support from places like Walmart, USAA, along with veterans’ groups and auxiliaries.”

Carlos describes many of these as “small grants” that help for specific purposes. They currently need general dollars for filling in the gaps.

Our veterans need our help. The services offered for those that served their country are minimal at best. NVOP is making a difference but they cannot do it alone. It’s time for the church to stand up, lend a hand and change the life of a vet! 

Where would we be today without those who willingly chose to serve our country? I believe the least we could do is help to give them back maybe just a little of what they might’ve lost. Organizations like the American GI Forum NVOP are so important to cities and communities like ours with a strong military presence. We need to respect their sacrifice, and show up when they need us. AGIF helps us do that.”   
Hunter Woolfolk,  Co-President DOCUmation

Hunter Woolfolk, Co-President DOCUmation

 

American GI Forum National Veterans Outreach Program

American GI Forum National Veterans Outreach Program
www.agif-nvop.org
611 N. Flores, Suite 200, SAT 78205
(210) 223-4088 

Be A Light. 

Pray. Ask God to give the leadership favor and wisdom. Donate. Give to the general fund especially. Spread the word. Invite your favorite business leader schedule a tour. Invite. Ask a representative to come and speak to your church, ministry or small group. Volunteer. Learn how you can pitch in monthly; it’s a great way to thank a vet!

Story made possible by DOCUmation

DOCUmation provides IT, print, and software solutions to businesses and nonprofits throughout Texas and beyond. As a company that values character, community, and customer, our goal is to provide service that serves. We want what we do to not only serve our customers needs, but also our community’s needs. Giving back creates a ripple that can reach places you never thought possible. Every time we partner with a nonprofit, we uphold our commitment to leave our community better than when we started. Each year, DOCUmation proudly supports nonprofits throughout our community. When you partner with us, you support them, too. 

DOCUmation
www.mation.com   |   (210) 341.4431
info@mation.com

Written by

Richard Zowie

Richard Zowie works as a broadcaster and freelance writer.


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