Supporting Indy’s Veterans: Woodrow Hairl’s story

Veterans Day is especially significant to Woodrow Hairl.

"It means to me that I did something for my country—for people that weren't even born. They have a better position now," he said.

The 86-year-old WWII veteran served under General George S. Patton from 1945-46, traveling throughout Europe as a member of the U.S. Army.

Hairl has had a diligent past, working a variety of modest jobs. In fact, one day while sweeping the streets of Chicago, the humble man had the pleasure of meeting Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

After moving to Indianapolis, the aging veteran was in need of support. He learned about HVAF (Hoosier Veterans Assistance Foundation) of Indiana Inc. from a fellow veteran in 2012. He was struggling to keep a job – which led to financial hardship – and HVAF worked to meet Hairl's needs.

Through partnerships with United Way of Central Indiana, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and community organizations, HVAF works to improve the lives of homeless veterans by providing supportive housing and services that empower them.

On Tuesdays and Thursdays, Hairl turns to the program's outreach service for help, receiving clothing, food and hygiene items.

"They give me food. They give me clothes if I need them, and everything like that," Hairl said. "That is a big help to me. I don't have to be out there homeless."

Through HVAF, 2,259 veterans had a safe place to sleep, and 1,205 family members, including 554 children, received the counseling and guidance they needed to help them become self-sufficient, thanks to support from United Way of Central Indiana.

Hairl is very appreciative of HVAF's caring staff, saying, "They are very nice to me. I couldn't ask for nicer people." On Veterans Day, the 86-year-old will join HVAF's board members, staff and volunteers on a float, traveling through downtown Indianapolis in the Veterans Day parade.

"We're just thankful, with United Way's support, that we are able to provide these services and programs to our homeless veterans," said Debra Des Vignes, vice president of marketing, communications and PR at HVAF. "Especially with Veterans Day, it's really important to appreciate our veterans, to understand our veterans, to have a better grasp of what they go through when they come back, and to be there to support them in any way that we can."