TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - For most of us, this pandemic is unlike anything we have ever experienced, however, for those who have served in the U.S. military, being socially distant from family and friends is nothing new.
“Then we were fighting a war, we were overseas … but now we are at home, we are in our own country, on our own soil,” said Mary Herrera, a local spokesperson for the Coalition to Salute America’s Heroes.
The enemy here is invisible. With stay-at-home orders in place to fight the spread of COVID-19, Herrera says many veterans are struggling.
“In the last month, we have seen a huge spike in financial needs,” she said.
Albert Briones, an Arizona resident, is a purple heart veteran who reached out for help.
“I joined the Army at 17, I did that for 10 years,” said Briones. “When I got blown up, I got shrapnel on the entire left side of my body. [I have] knee problems, back problems, shoulder problems, as well as the invisible [scars].”
Already struggling from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), Briones says he recently lost his income as a Lyft driver due to the coronavirus.
“It’s a hard time to find a job that fits into what I can do right now,” he said. “You hear stuff about the stimulus paycheck and unemployment and I still haven’t received a penny from [the government], I understand they have a lot to process. [But] my electricity bill was past due, I was already getting the letter saying, ‘Hey we are going to turn your electricity off’. Maybe with COVID-19, they wouldn’t have done it, but the bill would have kept growing.”
So, after searching for help online, Briones contacted Salute American’s Heroes.
“[Just a few days later] they replied saying ‘Thank you for everything, we just made a payment for this amount of money, here is the confirmation’. I was speechless because it wasn’t a couple bucks. It was something that lifted such a huge weight off my shoulders.”
“We do have a fund to help out veterans who need financial assistance,” said Herrera. “We have helped out with mortgage payments, with car payments, with insurance payments, we have sent checks to veterans so they can buy things like diapers.”
Herrera, a veteran herself who was also wounded in combat, says it’s important to support those who have put everything on the line for our country, whether it’s through financial help, job training or just by being someone to talk to.
“We’ve helped hundreds of veterans [through this],” she said.
If you or a loved one is living with mental or physical wounds from war and you need help through this pandemic, click here.
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