What if Pratt, a place where veterans are honored and revered, could be a place where veterans could come home for good?
Contrary to what some might believe, I really like the wind turbines I see out my own front door every day. There is something cool about seeing those blades turn, knowing they are generating electricity for someone. It might not be for me yet, but they are doing some good.
My mind has been turning like a turbine on a certain issue, but I'm not to the place where it will do anyone any good yet. But sometimes sharing thoughts out loud can really get some electricity generating. And maybe it will benefit somebody.
The issue on my mind is veterans. It is Armed Forces Day on Saturday, May 19, according to my calendar and I've seen a few public well-wishes of support for our veterans. It's so easy to say "Thank you for your service." It's easy to wave a flag and put flowers at the cemetery. Unfortunately, it's also easy to turn the other way when the subject of homeless veterans comes up. It's too easy to ignore the statistics about veterans committing suicide at a rate twice that of the rest of the population because they feel lost, abandoned, in pain. What can be done? I have some ideas.
Here in Pratt we are proud of our B-29 Bombers museum and the rich history of the veterans among us. We are so proud of it we named that nice little lake east of town The Pratt Veteran's Memorial Lake. What if we did something more than just rested on the pride of our history. What if we became a place where homeless veterans were welcomed and cared for and given a place to live?
It could be done. I've seen those tiny houses some other communities are building for homeless veterans. Why couldn't we have a school group or some club build a few of those houses and put them up at the lake? What a beautiful setting to allow veterans to heal, spend time with nature, and yet be close to care as needed.
We have the RSVP bus system that could provide trips to town for groceries or medical appointments. We have some of the best health care facilities here, along with mental health counselors and a large array of churches, all of which could support veterans in a meaningful way. We have The Hope Center to coordinate the necessities of food, clothing and guidance.
A small veterans' community at the lake would not hurt anyone. They could help keep the lake clean by picking up trash if they wished. They could fish, they could walk, they could visit around campfires and absorb the goodness of life, earned by their willingness to sacrifice everything for the freedoms and life the rest of us take for granted every day!
Another idea I've got turning in my head revolves around the same issue. What if we could establish a veterans' tiny-house living community at the B-29 Museum grounds. They could help with tours, they could enjoy the walking paths, they could put out a huge garden and work in it to raise vegetables and fruit for the community. They could sell their items at the local Farmer's Markets or donate to the schools' lunch programs.
One of the reasons this would be good is that at a recent Pratt City Commission meeting I heard commissioners brainstorming options or businesses to attract to the airport area that would use a lot of water. Apparently the state will be cracking down soon on water rights and unless there is proof of a lot of water needed, Pratt could loose the right to use a certain amount of water that we currently enjoy. I know that gardens need a lot of water, and who better than veterans to make use of it and benefit from the mindful time that can be spent working in a garden. Making things grow is one of the best ways to overcome guilt from things done to end life. It is an unspoken side-effect of war duty.
I love veterans. Most that I have met are so brave, even when faced with physical or mental issues they don't understand. They ask for so little for themselves and would rather just fade away than ask for someone to do something nice for them.
We admire the many veterans among us who have put their military discipline to good use in business or life in general. Those who haven't been so lucky need more than just our waving flags and expressions of thankfulness. They need our actions to help them live a better life, one they gave up when signing up to protect and serve.
What if Pratt could be that place in the world where homeless veterans where welcomed home, for good.