The day was May 4, 1970. The United States was divided over the war in Vietnam. Protests were taking place on college campuses. Students against the Nixon administration. Students against the war. This day it was Kent State's turn. The National Guard was sent in to try to keep the protest peaceful. They ended up shooting and killing four people. Four dead in Ohio.
Legendary musician Joe Walsh was a twenty year old student at the time. He was also the leader of a then local band called the James Gang. Granted he was spending more time playing in the band than in classes, but what he saw that day plus his talks with soldiers returning from Vietnam, and how they were treated, affected him.
It was this combination that moved him to start helping veterans.
We move ahead almost five decades. In 2018, there are more than 550,000 homeless Americans on any given night. More than fifty thousand are veterans. Almost twenty per cent of all homeless men are veterans. The number are stunning.
Last year, Walsh decided to do something about this. He started VetsAid. It's a benefit concert to help veterans and their families not only avoid homelessness but to also get the help they need to function every day.
In an interview with People magazine, Walsh spoke about why he needed to do this:
"Years of being an observer and seeing people come home from Vietnam — and the people coming home from Afghanistan — made me really uncomfortable. A homeless veteran should not have to stand at a freeway exit with a cardboard sign. That’s not okay. All of this stuff led to a blanket uncomfortable-ness I had concerning veterans and I decided to really do something about it. So I co-started VetsAID and I think that’s the best thing about what we do: homeless vets should not have to stand by the side of a highway with a cardboard sign. We make it so they don’t have to."
The first concert featured Keith Urban, the Zac Brown Band and Gary Clark Jr. It raised over $400,000. Sunday night was the second VetsAid concert, in Tacoma, Washington. Walsh called in the big guns. Among the performers were Haim, country star Chris Stapleton, James Taylor, Don Henley from the Eagles and former Beatles drummer and, Walsh's brother in law, Ringo Starr.
Some of the highlights from the concert included Taylor's "Carolina On My Mind", Henley's "The End of the Innocence" and "Desperado", and Walsh breaking out a couple of his James Gang classics "Walk Away" and "Funk #49." The concert ended with all the performers on stage joining in with Ringo for a sing-a-long of "A Little Help of My Friends."
The night of classic music raised more than $1.2 million...four times more than the first benefit. The money will be distributed to veteran's organizations throughout the country.
It's a great way to honor veterans on Veteran's Day. It's a great start to getting those cardboard signs out of the hands of our country's homeless veterans.
This is another in the series Faces of Homelessness.
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