Part of the Soldier’s Creed is to never leave a fallen comrade behind. Most people understand this as it applies to the battlefield but for Sergeant Crystal Reidy of the 123rd Mobile Public Affairs Detachment with the Arizona National Guard, it doesn’t stop there.
Every year on Veterans Day, since her return from Iraq in 2009, Reidy visits Phoenix Rescue Mission to not only feed homeless veterans but to honor and thank them for their service.
“If these veterans are homeless, we can’t leave them behind,” said Reidy, a Gilbert resident.
Giving back to the homeless holds a special place in Reidy’s heart as she too experienced homelessness growing up. Forced to live in and out of vehicles and abandoned buildings, she and her family were often put in dangerous situations. But amid all of the struggles, Reidy’s older siblings did their best to stabilize her environment allowing her to finish high school.
“I definitely could not have done that if my brothers and sister hadn’t taken one for the team for me,” she said.
With little options after graduation, Reidy joined the National Guard to help pay for school, eventually receiving her bachelor’s and master’s degrees. Now she is currently working on her doctorate.
Attributing her success to the National Guard, she felt she needed to give back to those who were not as fortunate as her, and so she decided to organize the very first “Veterans Serving Veterans” dinner at the Phoenix Rescue Mission. Now four years later, the event has grown from just six participating active duty troop members to more than 40.
This year’s event continued with tradition as more than 90 homeless veterans were pinned with patriotic ribbons and served hot meals in the Mission’s south Phoenix shelter.
“They deserve respect on Veterans Day, and I’m grateful that we have so many soldiers who want to help,” she said.
Although Reidy loves to see public support for active duty personnel, she emphasized the need to honor those who are no longer in uniform.
“It’s unbelievable how citizens are so compassionate and caring. When you’re wearing your uniform, people stop you, shake your hand and thank you for your service,” she said. “We just love that, but we also don’t want people to forget that people are still veterans even when they’re out of uniform.”
According to the National Coalition for the Homeless, veterans account for nearly half of all homeless men, many of whom have experienced serious trauma that has left them with lifelong disabilities. The “Veterans Serving Veterans” dinner is just one way Phoenix Rescue Mission strives to end homelessness. Since 1952, the non-profit Mission has been providing Christ-centered, life-transforming solutions to persons facing hunger and homelessness through its many programs designed to save lives, including its Hope Coach Street Outreach, Homeless Emergency Services, Men’s Addiction Recovery Program and the new Changing Lives Center for Women and Children.