Name: Thomas Richards
Hometown: San Diego
Profession: Chairman of the Board, United Veterans Council; Co-Founder, San Diego Veterans Coalition
“My name is Tom Richards, and my goal is to make it easier for veterans of war to adjust to life back home.”
Thomas Richards knows how difficult it can be for soldiers returning to civilian life. After he retired as a Lt. Colonel of the U.S. Marine Corps in 1995, he was invited to volunteer in North County San Diego for some veterans organizations. It was during that time, he says, he began to see a lot needed to be done to help veterans.
“Veterans were getting frustrated—throwing their hands up—when it came to filing claims for benefits. It was obvious someone needed to step in—there was a lot to do to help facilitate aid to soldiers coming back home,” says Richards.
So, Richards stepped up to the plate. He co-founded the San Diego Veterans Coalition - essentially a one stop shop for veterans.
They partner up with community service providers and veterans organizations to enhance the support of veterans across the area by improving communications, providing leadership, promoting collaboration, and facilitating quality services.
“Right now there are a lot of organizations and many of them don’t talk to one another. It’s an enormous amount of redundancy for our vets. We can provide better services if we all talk to one another. It’ll reduce the wasted effort for vets,” says Richards.
But he says more needs to be done. As the Chairman of the Board for the United Veterans Council, he’s working to ensure our state and local governments get involved. He says our elected leaders need to contact soldiers as soon as they get out of service, help them understand what benefits are available and educate them on where to go. "If we don’t get to vets fast, they get on with their lives, have other priorities—they get lost.”
The community also needs to understand, this is a big problem—they need to help out too. “As a culture we are welcoming vets back in a much more friendly way, but saying thank you for your service is not enough. This problem requires advocacy and communication from everyone.”