Do you believe that the actions of a single individual can have an extraordinary and meaningful impact? In a year marked by horrific violence, racial tension, and a divisive presidential race, it can be hard to imagine that this is so. Our country’s problems can, at times, seem overwhelming and insurmountable.
Consider the issue of veteran homelessness — there are 50,000 people that have served our country, whose needs on even the most basic levels, are not being served in return. It’s a jarring statistic. It’s disturbing and more than a little uncomfortable given our country’s love affair with patriotism, and the intensity of our calls for the respect due our flag and our troops.
It is a statistic that does not stand well with Joe Leal. An Iraq combat veteran, he believes that the words “veteran” and “homeless” should never go together. Joe more than understands the struggle of the homeless — chunks of his youth were spent in a shelter with his family. He also understands the very real impact that a single person can have on another person’s life. A man overhearing a conversation between Joe and his father in a diner offered them a place to live, and his father a job. “That guy changed our life forever,” says Joe.