TAMPA, Fla. - It was a sea of red, white and blue as hundreds of people, many of them veterans themselves, joined at Veterans Memorial Park in Hillsborough County Monday for the 55th Annual Veterans Day Tribute.
“Thanks to our veterans and their families for what they have done to keep our country free,” said the keynote speaker, Col. Stephen Snelson, Commander, 6th Air Refueling Wing at Mac Dill Air Force Base.
The Riverview High School Navy JROTC demonstrated drills and the Newsome High School Army JROTC presented the colors.
Then there was an announcement, short and to the point, that could have easily gotten lost in the pomp and circumstance, but that changed the lives of at least 25 people.
“Today kicks off Operation Reveille,” said Antionette Hayes-Triplette, CEO of the Tampa-Hillsborough Homeless Initiative.
Operation Reveille provides an apartment for homeless veterans. Using federal dollars, the initiative is providing housing for 25 homeless vets in Hillsborough County.
Ted Smith says he was thrilled when he found out he was one of the 25.
“It blew my mind,” Smith told FOX 13. Until now, Smith felt like he was at the end of his rope.
“I was on drugs and alcohol,” He told FOX 13. “I just lost everything. I lost my home, and I stepped away from God. That was the biggest thing.”
On Veteran’s Day, after the program, Smith and other veterans attended a housing seminar at Veterans Memorial Park, the first step towards getting their own place. The rent will be on a sliding scale.
In Hillsborough County, according to one recent survey, there are about 150 homeless veterans. Nationwide, there are more than 60,000.