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Beyond the Oath: A Call to Action for Our Homeless Veterans

The United States Army motto is “This We’ll Defend” our freedoms, liberties, country, and others. For the Marine Corps, it is “Semper Fidelis/Always Faithful” to our country, freedoms, people, and one another. In the Navy, it is “Semper Fortis/Always

Courageous”: for our country, our freedoms, and each other. For the Air Force, it is “Aim High”: always seek to excel for our country, our democracy, and for one another. The Coast Guard states, “Semper Paratus/Always Ready”: to rescue, protect, and support our freedoms, country, and one another. Finally, the Space Force is “Semper Supra/Always Above”: again, always there watching over us and for any threat to protect our democracy, nation, and one another.

These mottos reflect the immense responsibility, unflagging commitment, and focused dedication of every Armed Forces member when they raise their right hands and offer their oath to our country. As most can imagine and would believe, the great majority of our Veterans are very proud to have taken that oath. They are proud of their country, families, friends, brothers, and sisters in arms and their service to all of us. But, with that pride comes a great reluctance to ever ask for help, to reach out to any of those people, systems, or our country when they are in need. While in uniform, there was nothing that a soldier, sailor, or airman would not do for their battle buddy. As part of their oaths and actions, they swear to “Leave No One Behind.” These mottos or sayings are not just patriotic catchphrases. Instead, they are deeply embedded principles held again by every man, woman, or they who took that oath. And given that our Veterans will, by large, not reach out and ask for help, we are obliged to be committed as well. We need to be committed to understanding that many do need help and be ready to take the same courageous actions they took for us to defend, protect, and always be faithful to them.

In the United States, over 68,000 Veterans, not counting their family members, are experiencing homelessness. In the St. Louis region, there are often over 300 Veterans or Veteran families who are homeless on any given night. Those are just the Veterans we are aware of from the “By Name List” of homeless Veterans that we have identified and who we are aware of with the St. Louis VA and our homeless Veteran service provider peers. Upwards of 30% of those Veterans on our list live on the streets or move from a shelter to a friend’s couch or to some hidden place where they feel they can safely allow themselves, their families, and their children to sleep at night. Of our Veterans in the region and across the country experiencing homelessness, upwards of 15% are considered “Chronically Homeless,” meaning they have been living on the streets or in shelters for more than a year or have endured four episodes of homelessness in three years.

Please help us at Missouri Veterans Endeavor (MOVE) and with our peers in homeless Veteran service provision by taking an oath to be committed to learning about and

understanding the issues affecting our underserved, marginalized, and homeless Veterans. With that knowledge, please spread the word to your families, circle of friends, and communities. And please challenge yourselves and one another to take action to seek resources, to advocate for, and to create initiatives and energy for our Veterans, who never ask for help from us. Let’s also aim to find avenues to end Veteran homelessness in the St. Louis region and beyond.

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