Duty. Honor. Country. To any American who has served in the military, these aren't just words. They are at our core.
In their excellent new book, For Love of Country, Starbucks founder Howard Schultz and Washington Post journalist Rajiv Chandrasekaran make the point that our country has the duty to honor our veterans. They don't mean with charity but with respect, by taking the time to understand what they can teach us about their experiences.
They note that less than one percent of the U.S. population have served our military abroad since September 11, 2001, and that their experiences are disconnected from what the other 99 percent of Americans do in their daily lives. They correctly see this as a tragic loss for America. They write that it's not enough to applaud our fellow countrymen and women in stadiums and arenas. We should learn from them, hire them and care for them.
Schultz and Chandrasekaran couldn't be more on point, especially as the holidays approach.
Too many veterans are un- or underemployed. Too many veterans are homeless. Schultz is acting by pledging Starbucks will hire 10,000 veterans and active duty spouses over five years. In Jersey City, we will make sure no veteran is homeless by the end of 2015. We've signed on to Michelle Obama's Mayor's Challenge to End Veteran Homelessness.
More specifically, we are working to ensure that no veteran is forced to sleep on the street, and has access to adequate, permanent housing. If a veteran becomes homeless or is at risk of homelessness, we will have the resources to return them to housing stability. When those things are accomplished, the goal of ending veteran homelessness in Jersey City is reached.
Our efforts here in Jersey City are part of a larger national movement to end veteran homelessness. Soon, Jersey City, in partnership with community-based organizations and our corporate residents, will be building supportive housing for our homeless veterans. We will apply for HUD funding to pay the operating expenses of the building and partner with the VA for case management and healthcare services.
We are gathering data on housing, on the needs of homeless veterans generally, and on the population of homeless vets in Jersey City. Thus far, we've learned a good deal about the homeless veterans in Jersey City. This data will give us a general range for the homeless veterans in and around Jersey City, but won't be a comprehensive measurement of all families and individuals who experience homelessness throughout the year. We have a great deal still to learn about this population, and are developing other methods, including a more robust outreach program.
Giving these veterans homes will just be the start of what I believe our country owes them for their service. We will be in touch with Starbucks and others about employment opportunities and also will provide forums so we can learn from their experiences.
For Love and Country is important reading and we need to take to heart the book's subtitle: "What Our Veterans Can Teach Us about Citizenship, Heroism and Sacrifice." Let's get started.
Steven Fulop is Mayor of Jersey City, New Jersey and a U.S. Marine Corps veteran who enlisted after 9/11 and served in Iraq.
CORRECTION: A previous version of this post incorrectly stated that Mr. Fulop served as a Marine in Iran. Mr. Fulop served in Iraq.