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Community honors homeless veteran in memorial service

Posted at 6:56 PM, Jan 25, 2019
and last updated 2019-01-25 20:28:29-05

TULSA - People across the community gathered to pay tribute to a homeless veteran who died in frigid temperatures.

The memorial service raised question of how this tragedy could have been prevented.

There are more than a 120-thousand homeless veterans in America right now.

In Tulsa, there are numerous programs and outreaches available.

A three-volley salute started off the memorial service Friday, honoring U.S. Army veteran Zaki Holder.

Holder was found dead last Friday near a hotel downtown.

The Patriot Guard Riders stepped in in lieu of a formal military service, standing in front with flags as family and guests arrived.

"We need to be there to support these young men," said Mike Smith with the Patriot Guard Riders. "Each one of them signed their name on the dotted line that they would give their lives for this country and we need to support them."

Many veterans struggle when they return home, unable to fit back into society.

Some end up struggling with addiction and homelessness, but there are resources like the Coffee Bunker and John 3:16 that can help ease the transition back to civilian life.

"I have a full recovery program of 62 beds for men and women that they can come in. It's a residential program for them to get off the streets and find a way out of homelessness," Reverend Steve Whitaker, CEO and Senior Pastor at John 3:16, said.

"We help train them to get someone used to going to appointments, get used to doing the things they need to do," Scott Blackburn, Peer Support Systems Manager at Coffee Bunker, said. "Sometimes it's scary going in somewhere just not knowing."

Blackburn said these programs only work if veterans are willing to help themselves.

"It's a tragedy what happened and I wish there was a way to avoid it but like I said, when clients drive their own care, they have to be ready. They have to be the one that wants it but the help is there," said Blackburn.

If you are veteran and looking for help, the Coffee Bunker can sit with you and figure out what programs you qualify for.

For more information, click here.

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