It’s no secret that Chicago has a high crime rate. It’s also not a secret that veterans often struggle to assimilate after returning home.
You might find yourself wondering what these two subjects have in common.
For service members, “protect and serve” is more than an oath. It’s a part of their identity to serve others. Non-profit organization Leave No Veteran Behind believes that community is the most important and worthy investment for veterans’ successful integration into society.
During some months, the U.S. loses more citizens to violence in the south side of Chicago than soldiers in Iraq. Every day on these dangerous streets, veterans stand watch as part of their program called “Safe Passage.” Here they help secure the safety of over 10,000 children walking to and from school.
They aren’t law enforcement officers and there is no promise of stopping crime. However, their presence mitigates and reduces the development of some crime. Most importantly, with a safe route to school, children can spend more time focusing on learning in a safe environment. Additionally our most vulnerable youth have added role models in their daily lives.
Not only does this organization help the city of Chicago and its at-risk youth, it helps the veterans enormously. If an ex-service member has a higher education degree and student debt, the organization helps pay off the debt through donations. In exchange, they ask for 400 community service hours.
Part of Leave No Veteran Behind’s mission statement is as follows:
“One code that is paramount is that we never leave a soldier, seaman, airman, or marina behind. This principle should transcend the military and should be part of our national fabric as Americans. We should not allow individuals to slip through the cracks, especially if they are bettering themselves as citizens and soldiers by attaining higher education so that they may bring their expertise to the military and civilian workplace”
The organization believes “veterans are not a charity, but a strategic social investment.” Through investment in veterans, we can build safer and balanced communities for all to live in. The US’s veteran dilemma isn’t that veterans need more programs. Veterans need community, support, and a life purpose after the military.
Watch a 2012 video with more information about this organization.