An Ogden man calls Vietnam veterans "refugees in their own country," and says more needs to be done to help those who fought in the longest and most unpopular war in the history of the United States.
So Robert Sarlo, a Vietnam veteran himself, has opened up a store-front office at 178 25th Street in an attempt to meet the needs of those still suffering from Vietnam."There's a lot of homeless veterans out there. It's a national disgrace," said Sarlo. "Some of them (Vietnam veterans) still don't trust the government. We're here to help them, to support them. We mean business."
Sarlo opened his office about a week ago, and already 16 people have come in looking for help. Sarlo is the Outpost Leader for an organization called Point Man International, a Vietnam veterans non-profit outreach program.
In trying to help veterans, Sarlo points to statistics - 90 percent of Vietnam veterans' marriages have ended in divorce, about 50 percent of them suffer emotionally, more than half are addicted to drugs and alcohol, 40 percent are unemployed and another 25 percent earn less than $7,000 a year.
He also said that 58,000 people were killed during the war, and another 70,000 have committed suicide since the war ended.
The 42-year-old man served in Vietnam in 1968, and he also became a casualty when his marriage ended in divorce and he found himself on the street.
Sarlo said he now wants to find homes, employment and mental-health programs for those veterans still suffering. He said the government isn't about to let loose of millions of dollars to help, so he is trying to do the best he can.
"Everybody tried to sweep Vietnam under the rug for years and years, but it keeps getting up, biting them," said Sarlo. "We've got a problem here. We have our own refugees in this country."
Sarlo said that in this geographical area, 80 percent of the single homeless men are veterans, and a majority of those are Vietnam vets.
"We've turned our backs on them. They feel deserted," he continued. "I supported Desert Storm but that war was a piece of cake compared to Vietnam. We desperately need to help those veterans still suffering from Vietnam."
Point Man International is based out of the state of Washington, and Sarlo said the organization's purpose is to provide support for Vietnam veterans who are struggling with homelessness, post-traumatic stress disorder, addictions and unemployment.
Point Man of Ogden is trying to fill the void for veterans in northern Utah, which has no veterans center or outreach services, Sarlo said.
He says Weber County alone has between 400 and 900 homeless roaming the streets on any given day; more than half are veterans.