Serving our US Military, Disabled & Homeless Veterans, and Those in Need
Project SOS-Support Our Soldiers, Inc., was founded in August, 2009, and was established as a 501(c)3 recognized charity that supports our US military serving overseas, our disabled veterans, and our homeless veterans. Initially, Project SOS provided medical and surgical supplies to our US Military personnel who were carrying out humanitarian missions in Iraq and Afghanistan. This resulted in the opening of 22 medical clinics and one pediatric hospital being opened to treat the innocent children caught in the middle of these terrible wars. All these facilities were operated by US Military Medical Battalions, and thousands of children's lives were saved as a result of our troops efforts. During the past year we have shifted our effort from overseas due to troop withdrawals, and we have now concentrated on our local area by providing motorized wheelchairs to our severally disabled veterans, and also providing clean water, food, clothing, shelter and medical care to our homeless veterans in the Central Florida area. During this past year we have been able to distribute 42 motorized wheelchairs, and numerous mobility devices to our local veterans who have served in World War II up to and including those returning from Afghanistan. This is in addition to caring for our homeless veterans and families living in our local Ocala National Forest.
It is estimated that over 150,000 homeless veterans and their families live in our national forests. Many returned home from war and found they could not cope with society due to PTSD or other emotional problems, and others came to back to find their employers were no longer in business and their jobs were gone. In either case the result is the same, jobs are lost, homes are foreclosed, and they return to what they feel is a safe environment with the brothers and sisters in arms. For our combat veterans living in the forest is not that difficult, but for their families, especially the young children and infants, it can be frightening. That is where Project SOS-Support Our Soldiers, Inc. comes into play.
Gary has spent the many weekends in the Ocala National Forest with our homeless veterans, and much to my surprise the number of veterans and family members living locally in the forest has increased as much as 50%. A large part of this increase is due to greater numbers of young children and infants. The challenge to continue caring for these people is continuing to grow, and our ability to provide for their needs is becoming more difficult. Medical supplies and over the counter medicines are in short supply, and more often than not, we do not have the funding to purchase many of these items. Likewise, sleeping bags and proper tents for shelter are at a premium. In the winter months the temperatures at night are often below freezing and the children stay warm with whatever they can find. Community support is very much needed if we are to continue our work. These men and women answered this nation’s call when they were needed, and we can do no less when they need us. I hope and pray we can work together in the near future.