Why I Believe Every Veteran Deserves a Place to Call Home

Why I Believe Every Veteran Deserves a Place to Call Home

As a retired Lieutenant General of the U.S. Air Force, Gene Tattini has experienced first-hand the many challenges faced by millions of military veterans after returning home. So we asked the now Deputy Director at Pasadena's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) about the importance of ending veteran homelessness in L.A. County and why he's chosen to battle the epidemic through his work with United Way.

General Tattini, you spent 36 years in the Air Force traveling from North Dakota to Libya to Korea and back again. How does it feel for a veteran to finally be able to come home?

As our young men and women who've served in the armed forces return, what typically happens is they have a sense - in some, but not all cases - that their service is unappreciated. This was especially true during the Vietnam era and it can be quite a disappointment. But the hardest part of readjusting is making the transition back to civilian life.

In your opinion, what do our servicemen and women need in order to successfully make this transition (e.g., physically, mentally and emotionally)?

After returning from a combat zone, a remote tour or several deployments, the average soldier, sailor or marine may require psychological assistance as well as a little help with translating the skills they learned in the military to the civilian job market. It's when our vets don’t get the initial help they need that they can end up in a homeless situation.

Why did you decide to become involved with United Way of Greater L.A. as opposed to any other nonprofit? Please describe the impact that working with the organization has had on you.

I contributed to the organization throughout my entire military career through the Combined Federal Campaign and so even as a young officer I knew what United Way was doing for our community. When I retired, the next logical step was to become directly involved with United Way of Greater L.A. Since then, I’ve developed a much better appreciation for the intractable social issues this great country of ours is dealing with in terms of homelessness, education and the economic well-being of families.

Sadly, there are currently more than 9,000 military veterans living on the streets of L.A. County. Why do you feel it's crucial to provide all veterans with a place they can call home?

Regardless of the myriad reasons they're without a home, I think they should receive certain benefits through organizations like United Way based on the fact that they’ve made tremendous sacrifices for our country and we owe it to them.

What are your views on Home for Good, the action plan to end chronic and veteran homelessness by offering affected individuals with permanent housing and a network of supportive services?

I am a big supporter of permanent supportive housing; this model is extremely successful and I think United Way deserves a lot of credit for helping to establishing it.

Is there any advice you'd like to give L.A.'s next generation of leaders, including members of UWGLA’s Emerging Leaders, on how to improve the overall quality of life for local residents?

These young men and women have stepped forward and become involved with Emerging Leaders and that’s step one. My advice to them is to stay involved and continue serving the community in that capacity. In the long run, they'll be much better off for having the experience and getting that exposure.

Lastly, what is the single most important thing for Americans to remember this Memorial Day as we honor the millions of brave men and women who have risked their lives in service to our country?

I think veterans have a better appreciation than most of what this great country has to offer because they've served in the armed forces. We must bear in mind that the U.S. has an all-volunteer military and we should be grateful for everything they have done on our behalf.



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