BY RICHARD RHINEHART
Bell, California, July 12, 2011 – A 20 member team of wounded warriors, active duty military, homeless Veterans and supporters will set off from the Salvation Army Bell Shelter in the Los Angeles suburb of Bell on July 27 for a 1,900 mile bicycle ride to St. Louis, Missouri.
Created by World T.E.A.M. Sports participant Jose G. Ramos and The Vet Hunter Project, the Ride Against Homelessness will help increase awareness of the significant difficulties veterans are having in finding employment and housing in today’s economy. A Vietnam War Veteran who participated in this spring’s World T.E.A.M. Sports’ Face of America Ride from Washington to Gettysburg, Ramos is passionate about helping returning Veterans.
“There is a national tragedy happening right now all across America,” said Ramos. “There are too many Veterans who are now homeless. There should not be one. If I were to ask you to describe how you imagine what a homeless Veteran looks like, you might say that he is old, has a beard, an old Army jacket, etc. And you would only be partially right.”
Noting that a significant percentage of homeless Veterans are women, and that nearly one third of all Veterans have children, Ramos has worked with the Salvation Army in his local community to place 67 Afghan and Iraq War Veterans into shelters. In the Los Angeles County area alone, estimates suggest there may be as many as 8,000 homeless Veterans. Through the Ride Against Homelessness, Ramos intends to bring the challenges of homelessness among Veterans to the attention of Americans along the ride’s six state route.
“When we get to St. Louis, Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shenseki and AMVETS National President Jerry Hotop have agreed to meet with us at the AMVETS National Stand Down. They have promised to take our campaign to DC,” reports Ramos.
The founder of Welcome Home Vietnam Veterans Day, Ramos saw action in Vietnam from 1967-68 as a Combat Medic with the 101st Airborne Infantry. Participating in World T.E.A.M. Sports’ Vietnam Challenge in 1998, Ramos reports his life was changed.
“World T.E.A.M. Sports saved my life,” Ramos said. “I survived three decades with survivor’s guilt after coming home from the war in 1968. I was going to end my life soon – it was just a matter of time. Returning back to Vietnam with WTS was exciting and a true life experience.”
Inspired by participating with wounded warriors, Ramos decided he needed to dedicate his life to helping others. “Riding with people who had many severe disabilities, much, much worse than my PTSD, I was so moved by the so-positive attitude of so many of the members in the team.”
During the 18 day journey from California to Missouri this summer, participants of the Ride Against Homelessness will visit homeless shelters, Veterans hospitals and burn centers. A film crew will follow the journey, for a forthcoming documentary film that will feature narration from actor Jon Voight. The Vet Hunters Project Facebook page will provide regular updates from the ride; a map of the route can be found online.