Santa delivers Christmas gifts to homeless US veterans

They fought for our country and now they're fighting to keep a roof over their heads. But this week, some local homeless veterans got some much needed holiday cheer. 

"I joined the military in 1976," says Retired Army Veteran Gary McKeehan. McKeehan served his country for five years in the Army. 

"I was a hawk missile radar launcher mechanic and an airborne ranger," explained McKeehan. But after a distinguished military career, McKeehan fell on hard times. 

"It was devastating, I think I was depressed." 

McKeehan bounced back from his depression after coming to Interlink Counseling Services, an organization that provides housing and counseling to homeless military veterans. 

Thursday afternoon, about 60 veterans were fed Christmas dinner and received gift boxes from Santa. And just like a child on Christmas morning, there was plenty of excitement in the room. 

"It makes me realize that people care and they also appreciate my service to my country," said McKeenhan. Each box was loaded with essentials and other handpicked items for the vets. 

"They try to give them shoes, hoods, pants, shirts, socks, underwear," said Timothy White, program director for Interlink Counseling Services. 

It may not seem like much, but White says it's a big deal. "A lot of them have been homeless for quite some time, just receiving a gift on Christmas means a lot to them," White said. 

"One guys stands out, he told me it has been 20 years since somebody gave me a gift." The gifts are usually always there at Christmas; it's the other 11 months veterans like McKeehan worry about. 

"It has been an ongoing thing, I think after the war in Afghanistan and Iraq, people realize that the military is an important thing and yes, I hope it does not fade away," McKeehan said. 

By Stephan Johnson
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