Veteran Homelessness in Focus as Joint Chiefs Chairman Accepts Award

HOLYOKE, Mass., Oct. 30 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the United States Armed Services, was on hand to receive the 2009 Soldier On Award, but the fight to end veteran homelessness was the focus at a gala event held Oct. 29 at the Log Cabin in Holyoke, Massachusetts.

Hosted by Soldier On, a Northampton, Massachusetts-based non-profit organization devoted to changing the end of the story for homeless veteran, the award dinner capped a day of activities. The day’s events also included a groundbreaking and naming ceremony for a first-of-its-kind limited equity housing project for formerly homeless veterans. The award dinner, which was attended by ABC TV’s Bob Woodruff among others, included the rollout of a powerful video in which formerly homeless veterans detail, in their own words, the impact Soldier On has had on their lives. That video can now be viewed on Soldier On’s web site,

Soldier On, which has been getting homeless veterans off the street since 1994, chose to honor Admiral Mullen as a result of a personal commitment the Chairman made two years ago to support the fight against veteran homelessness. That commitment came following a meeting at the Pentagon with Soldier On President & CEO Jack Downing. In presenting the award to Mullen, Downing noted that he knew leaving that meeting that Mullen’s desire to help homeless veterans was sincere; the admiral has backed up that belief since, consistently supporting Soldier On’s cause and finding ways to draw public attention to the problem of veteran homelessness.

In acknowledging the honor, however, Mullen said he couldn’t accept the award only for himself. “I accept this award, but I really accept it for the two and a half million men and women who are serving right now and who make up the best military we have ever had in our history,” Mullen said.

Saying he was honored to be recognized by Downing and Soldier On, Mullen stated, “I’m just thrilled, humbled and grateful. And I really do believe that we can solve this problem. We are a rich country; we are a rich people with the values that can make sure that everyone who serves is able to live their American dream. That’s who we are as a country.”

Mullen also took time to praise and encourage viewing of Soldier On’s One Question video. “There could be no better testament to the veracity, the tenacity, the dedication and the impact of Soldier On than that video,” the chairman proclaimed. In the video formerly homeless veterans who have been helped by Soldier On talk about how they became homeless and where they might be if it they hadn’t found Soldier On. The veterans’ frank and emotionally powerful comments provide insight into the ongoing problem of veteran homelessness and what it will take to solve it.

The presentation of the Soldier On Award was timed to coincide with the official launch of a new model for housing formerly homeless veterans. Prior to the award dinner, Soldier On held a groundbreaking ceremony for its first Gordon H. Mansfield Veterans Community. Located in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, the project will include 39 units of limited equity housing, which will allow formerly homeless veterans to become homeowners, in many cases for the first time in their lives. In addition to representing the first of many such projects for Soldier On, the Pittsfield project is designed to serve as a national model.

Soldier On’s limited equity housing projects — a second of which is moving toward construction in Leeds, Massachusetts — all will be named for Gordon H. Mansfield, former deputy secretary of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, whose efforts have been instrumental in advancing Soldier On’s mission.

The groundbreaking ceremony and dinner in Admiral Mullen’s honor were attended by Stephen Coyle, CEO of the AFL-CIO Housing Investment Trust; Pete Dougherty, Director of Homeless Programs for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs; and Massachusetts Lieutenant Governor Tim Murray.

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SOURCE Soldier On

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