Last fall, on a cold, blustery day, on the way out of Camden Yards at Oriole Park in Baltimore, there was a homeless man with a sign. "Homeless vet. Hungry. Please help." On his hands were old cotton gloves with holes at the finger tips. He wore a tattered jacket. The soles were peeling away from his shoes. His eyes were sad, the deep creases in his face visible through the stubble.
I paused, dug in my pocket for what cash I had left from the baseball game and handed it to him. Perhaps $10. "Thank you, sir. God bless you sir," he said.
"Thank you for your service," I replied.
As I walked toward the parking lot, another man approached me.
"Why did you give that bum money?" he asked belligerently. "He was probably a scammer. They are all over the place."
Before I could respond, my wife, Jackie Cristiano, quickly retorted. "How dare you ask that of my husband? He was just trying to help that man. You should hope you never have to walk in his shoes."
"I work for my money," the man said. "That would never happen to me."
Really? Lucky you.
There is no excuse in this country for anyone, let alone any veteran who has served our nation, to be homeless, having to beg on the street for survival. None. In Congress and in the White House politicians are trying, right now, to slash important programs for those in need -- like Medicaid -- so they can cut the taxes of the corporations and the wealthy by billions. Meanwhile, people are begging in the streets.
In 2016 there were at least 39,000 homeless veterans in the United States. Probably more, because they are hard to count. That is unconscionable. Some suffer from PTSD. Some are left without sight or limbs as a result of injuries suffered in combat. Regardless of the reason for their situation, they are veterans -- men and women who should be honored and helped, not left to rot in the street.
Where are our priorities?
Trump and Pence send out tweets about how they honor our veterans. Thanks for your tweets, big guys. Now put your money where your mouths are and do something for these people!