Last year, we did a little patting of ourselves on the back here for raising the better part of ten tons worth of food to feed Veterans in Highlands County who have fallen on hard times. That drive hit me hard at the time, since Gladys and I are part of the “Viet Nam Generation,” and both of us know kids we grew up with who came back from that conflict a bit – well, “rattled” by the experience. Years later, we all learned that chemicals used during the conflict added to many Vets’ difficulties coming home to an ungrateful nation from an unpopular war where things happened no young man or woman should have to witness. While our Gulf War Veterans came home to a much more welcoming nation, they also witnessed things that polite society doesn’t discuss, and more than a few of them also suffered the emotional consequences. Bottom line; a plurality of the nation’s homeless and uncared-for people, and many of our chronically unemployed are people who went to war on our behalf and had severe problems transitioning back into civilian life. Far too many end their own lives each day; even more endure the financial and emotional hardship of not being able to reliably care for themselves and their families.

Last year, you helped load almost ten tons of food into the Veterans’ Service office to help those men and women, and – as before – we patted ourselves on the back for a job well done. That food, believe it or not, lasted only through midyear. So this year, we set a more ambitious goal; to DOUBLE the intake and shoot for an entire YEAR of food to help some friends get through the year. The recipients are screened through the Vets’ Service office; the food’s kept safe and sorted by the Heartland Food Bank. Ten tons was one big … BIG haul from the residents of a small County like ours. TWENTY tons? The only way we can find out if we can, is to TRY.

There are locations all over the County with our Vets’ Food Drive cans in the front of the store or office; you’ll be in one of those places soon. Carry a bag of nonperishable food in the car with you so you don’t forget, and when you see that can, drop your bag in there. Then, fill another bag and do it again. And again. We’re far from the wealthiest County in Florida, but we ARE among the most generous. And we have more Veterans per capita here than almost anywhere else in the nation. If anyone can, should, and WILL “step up” to aid our own, it oughtta be us.

We’re calling this year’s drive a chance for us to make history together. Collecting a full year’s supply of foodstuffs for Vets in need would be just that … HISTORY. And, an example to the rest of the nation that caring people can and DO take care of their own.