A big driver in the decision is an institutional change in focus at the Department of Veterans Affairs, which in recent years has placed more emphasis on placing homeless vets into permanent housing, rather than using the temporary, transitional beds at “Grant Per Diem” homes like Turner House.
At 18 years old many young men had found themselves in the midst of battles overseas.
They returned with limited support, with post traumatic stress, chronic illness, and often living on the streets. Since then some of them found their way to Soldier On, which cares and helps pick homeless veterans back up and onto their feet.
In the decade-long Vietnam War 58,000 people died and 27 of those were from Berkshire County.
On Saturday local veterans groups honored those 27 and all of those who went overseas during that conflict. The local chapters of the Vietnam Veterans of America, American Legion, and Veterans of Foreign Wars held the hour-long event in Park Square, where the city's Vietnam War memorial has stood for the last 30 years.
After serving in Afghanistan for the U.S. Army Justin Pierce returned home to a good job and a savings account. But it was fleeting.
Soon enough the now 25-year-old was laid off and slowly watched his bank account dwindle. He downsized his apartment but still struggled living in fear that if the car broke down or any little thing occurred, he'd be in serious trouble. He was stressed and depressed.
The American Legion Riders hold two motorcycle runs every year to raise money to support veterans and have never had an accident.
Part of the reason is because law enforcement in a number of towns are there to perform traffic control, allowing the bikers to get through an intersection safety in under a minute. On Friday morning, the riders had a simple message to those officers: Thank you.