Cornerstone Community Outreach, a homeless men and family shelter in Chicago’s Northside Uptown neighborhood is reaching out to its homeless vets in a planned gala affair Thursday November 10, 2011 that will celebrate their contributions to this country.
Included in this momentous occasion will be an appearance by 90-year old Lieutenant Colonel Julius Jackson, one of the few remaining Tuskegee Airmen who served in WWII. The Tuskegee Airmen were the first African American military aviators in the United States armed forces.
CCO Executive Director Sandra Ramsey explained how her first encounter with the famous pilot took her by surprise when she noticed him waiting at the Belmont/Broadway bus stop. She recognized him as a Tuskegee Airman from the emblems on his hat and the medals on his suit jacket. Intrigued, they had a conversation. He was indeed one of the historic African American pilots who had been part of the special 332nd Fighter Group of the U.S. Army Air Corps.
“I shook his hand, his bus came and he was whisked away, “ Ramsey remembers. CCO case manager Karen Warne recalls her similar bus stop meeting with Lt. Jackson as she related seeing the few remaining Tuskegee Airmen attending President Obama’s inauguration in 2008.
Ramsey acknowledges that this celebration is the first time CCO has ever done anything like this. Tracking down and contacting the airman gave them the opportunity to make this historic moment special for the vets who’ve been able to benefit from the shelter’s services.
“We wanted to continue to look for occasions where we as a homeless family of people could celebrate different things: we celebrate Mothers’ Day, Fathers’ Day, Memorial Day, Fourth of July and all that. Of course we are having this celebration to especially honor our homeless vets.
“We counted about15 homeless vets who are living with us or who have lived with us in the past. We have one woman and the rest are men.
“Besides Vietnam vets, we have some from Iraq, the Gulf war. Some have post traumatic stress or drinking issues due to what they’ve experienced. For some it is difficult to transition into normal life. We’ve helped some of them get housed. Of the 15 who’ve lived with us, some of them now live in the neighborhood in SROs. A lot of them get hooked up with Heartland Health Outreach and C4.”
The vets range in age from 30s to 50s. The simple celebration at the Cornerstone Community Outreach offices will begin at three. 17-year police veteran Margaret Webb who is also a jazz singer will be a featured guest performer in honor of the vets and other guests attending the dinner and commemoration.