ANCHORAGE (KTUU) - As the country pauses today to honor the country’s veterans, many of whom sacrificed life and limb defending their country overseas, some former servicemen find themselves confronted with hunger and homelessness right here in Alaska.
Fortunately, at least some of get an extra special hot meal for Veterans Day at Bean’s Cafe.
“Today it’s extra special for us to thank them for their service and remind us all that freedom really isn’t free,” said Lisa Sauder, Executive Director of Bean’s Cafe in Anchorage, “Many of them put their lives on the line to give us the freedoms we afford and enjoy every day.”
Veterans were honored at the lunchtime meal with a building-wide recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance before their meal that had been prepared by the Bartlett High School JROTC and active servicemen and women serving at JBER.
The meal included sloppy joes, cooked vegetables and a colorfully decorated white cake to give the meal something sweet.
Despite the celebrations, the meal underlined the seriousness of veteran homelessness. According to the US Interagency Council on Homelessness, 132 veterans in Alaska currently experience homelessness out of about 70,000 veterans. About 13,000 live in housing that is considered to have major problems of crowding, costs or quality, according to the Housing Assistance Council.
A table representing the memory of the fallen soldier is arranged at Bean's for Veterans Day. The lemon represents the bitterness of loss, the salt represents the tears for the fallen, and the upturned champagne flute represents the inability of the lost to participate in toasts.
But Alaska’s rates of many social problems for veterans are lower than the national averages, including its rate of unemployment and poverty. Alaskan veterans also have higher rates of home ownership and have higher average incomes than average Alaskans.
“We actually have one of the lowest rates of homeless vets in the country because we’ve had a really concerted effort in the last few years in getting folks housed, but there are still many who need to be housed, and there’s many who served who aren’t eligible for veterans benefits, but we honor them all today,” said Sauders.
In any case, today was a day to celebrate for veterans in Anchorage, and it’s a day that staff at Bean’s Cafe has increasingly recognized in the last several years.
“We’ve always done something for Veterans Day but in the last few years it’s become a little more of a big deal for us. We just want to be thankful every day for what we have and for those who have served,” said Sauders.
Active service members from Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson helped serve meals to veterans in need.
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