By Heather Brown

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Americans take time to thank and honor our veterans every November 11. Their service often comes with great sacrifice, which is recognized on that day.

But what do United States veterans need year-round? Good Question.

“Just be friends, talk with them, buy them coffee,” said Roxanne Olson, who served in the U.S. Army from 1979 to 1983. “Just be there for them.”

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On Veterans Day, she and her colleague, Army veteran Yvonne Moore, were handing out thank-you notes of appreciation to veterans at the Minnesota Veterans Home – Minneapolis. The cards offered messages like, “You’re a blessing to our life,” and “You’re the reason we have our freedom.”

Governor Tim Walz, who spent 24 years in the Army National Guard, spoke at several Veterans Day events on Monday.

“It matters to talk about what came before us and to talk about where we’re going,” Walz said to the crowd gathered for the 2019 State Veterans Day program in Inver Grove Heights.

(credit: Alex Wong/Getty Images)

He also talked with WCCO later in the day at Minnesota Veterans Home – Minneapolis about the biggest concerns facing veterans today. According to the Minnesota Department of Veterans Affairs, there were 327,000 veterans living in Minnesota. Seventy-one percent of them are 55 years or older.

“One of the things we see is that we have an aging veteran population,” Walz said. “I’m really thankful for the VA and VA hospital.”

He also it’s important for employers to ensure veterans are given chances for jobs. In 2018, Minnesota’s overall unemployment rate was 2.9%. It was 3.3% for Minnesota veterans.

“I think the biggest thing is perception-wise,” Walz said. “These are not victims. These are not damaged goods. These are folks who have gone through, in some cases, pretty difficult situations, but they come out with a wealth of experience.”

Walz also pointed to mental health – among veterans and the general population – as one of the biggest concerns. According to the Minnesota Department of Veterans Affairs, between 90 and 100 veterans are lost to suicide each year.

“A lot of times these are folks that have come through experiences that have made them stronger, but they change you because they’re normal human reactions,” Walz said.

The state of Minnesota has also been partnering with local organizations like Minnesota Assistance Council for Veterans (MAC-V) to end homeless about veterans in Minnesota. Right now, there are 293 homeless veterans on the registry.

READ MORE: This Minnesotan Needs Your Yarn To Help Her Fellow Veterans

“We want to be the fourth state to declare homelessness is taken care of for our veterans,” said Minnesota Department of Veterans Affairs Commissioner Larry Herke.

So, what can people do to help?

“Sometimes, it’s just having someone come in and talk with them,” said Minnesota Veterans Home – Minneapolis Administrator Thomas Paul.

“Donate you time, that would be the biggest one,” said veteran Steven Schultz. “Be nice to your neighbors, that’s the ultimate.”

“Let them know they’re not forgotten” Moore said. “That’s the greatest thing we can do.”

Here are links to organizations that help military members, their families and veterans:

Heather Brown