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Thursday, March 4, 2021

Give Keystone Towers to our veterans

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It’s a big 15-story eyesore that hasn’t seen better days in a very long time. As a matter of fact, as you drive on Binford Boulevard, you can’t help but take notice of the ghostly building that has its fair share of graffiti and broken windows.

What a sight to see as millions of people travel on one of the city’s most popular thoroughfares.

Here’s a question for you to ponder: Since there were no takers when the property was offered in a tax sale last month, why not give it to a non-profit organization that can rehab it as well as help boost the economy?

Last week, the Recorder reported on a local organization, Save Our Veterans (SOV), that wants to acquire the old Keystone Towers to use it as a housing and business center for veterans.

This makes perfect sense, especially considering that there are more than 1,200 homeless vets in Central Indiana and their rate of unemployment is nearly 20 percent – double the national average.

One thing I’ve never quite understood about this country is the way it treats our veterans once they return home from active duty. By enlisting, our service men and women volunteer to do something that many of us would never consider, yet when they return home they often find themselves in a precarious situation in every way you can imagine; financially, emotionally, mentally and even physically.

Service men and women are jeopardized so much while serving, yet when they return home, the very country they protected turns a blind eye and a deaf ear.

Something has to be done to combat this problem and that’s why giving Keystone Towers to Saving Our Veterans is the best alternative.

I’m confident that under SOV’s leadership, Keystone Towers will go from a city blunder to a beautiful establishment that will empower veterans by providing them with much-needed jobs and apartments.

Many of you reading this editorial probably know of an individual who served our country proudly, yet has fallen on hard times – some may be family members. So many of our veterans are broken … it’s now our turn to serve and protect them.

Veterans are our heroes and we should give them a hero’s thanks by providing them with as many opportunities and resources as possible. The down-on-their-luck veterans who I’ve encountered aren’t people who are looking for hand-outs or freebies; they just want an opportunity to provide for themselves and their families.

I’ll never forget a conversation I had with a man whose last tour of duty was in Iraq. He said when he initially joined the military, he did so to provide stability for his wife and three children. He wanted the opportunity to be the man to his family that his own father never was. When he originally told his wife that he was enlisting, she disagreed. She’d seen how difficult things could be for military families and personnel and wasn’t sure her family was exempt. After much cajoling, the man convinced his wife and he enlisted.

Once his time in the military was over, he returned home for good. After years of trying unsuccessfully to find a job that supported his family, the pressures of joblessness led him and his wife to divorce.

One of the last things he said his wife told him as he moved his things out of the house the family rented was “I told you never to join the military. That’s where all our problems began.”

As he reminisced, I could see the pain in his eyes … it was a faraway, lost look that I generally see on the faces of spouses or children at funerals. This man told me that when his wife spoke those words, it was the lowest point in his life because he knew she was correct. He said joining the military cost him his family and the one thing he wanted to succeed at – being a successful father and husband; he ultimately failed.

We owe it to people like this man to do more for our veterans. I encourage you to call your City-County Council member or state representative and encourage them to advocate for more veteran rights as well as urge them to support SOV’s efforts to acquire Keystone Towers. Doing so is one of the best ways we can say “thank you” to our veterans.

You can e-mail comments to Shannon Williams at Shannon.w@indyrecorder.com.

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