There is a lot of lip service out there around supporting our veterans. But when you get out there and meet them and see the plights they are in, it’s just not right. It's also important that people realize that not all veterans have PTSD and that they, along with their families, need opportunities like the rest of America to have job security, access to quality health care, a place to call home and a community that embraces them.
Frances Roberts grew up and started her family in Louisiana. When the oil industry pulled out of Louisiana in the early 1980s, the loss of jobs left Frances and her family on food stamps and without many options.
Frances turned to the military, and thus began a 22-year career serving her country. She was able to pull her family out of poverty, and while in the military volunteering became second nature. Yet it was a car accident, and subsequent retirement from the military, that would propel Frances into even greater service.
“I went through a bout of depression,” said Frances. “I so identified with who I was in the military that I didn’t know anything else, and it broke my heart having to retire following the car crash. That initial shock was really hard but then I realized, I’m still here, surely I have something left to give.”
She found herself in Washington, D.C. with her husband who was working at the Pentagon. Frances started getting involved in her church and volunteering at the local foodbank. When she returned to her native Louisiana, she focused her efforts on helping veterans.
“There is a lot of lip service out there around supporting our veterans,” said Frances. “But when you get out there and meet them and see the plights they are in, it’s just not right. We have to go to where they are on the streets and do something about it.”
Frances, serving with an Americorps VISTA program, has worked to find housing for almost 300 homeless veterans in New Orleans. She also works with the Jefferson Parish Alliance of Concerned Citizens (JPACC), which works to improve the community through engagement, capacity building, and advocacy. Her work there has helped those same veterans find gainful employment.
“In a way, I identify with veterans’ agony once their time in the military is up,” said Frances. “We are helping them through that. They have great stories and those stories need to be told. Watching other people overcome adversity has helped me heal in the wake of my own adversity.”
In her spare time, Frances loves to lose herself in a good book. She has also upped her volunteer efforts at JPACC serving on the military meetings committee and working to address rising suicide rates. Her husband, Steve Roberts, is also a veteran and is joining Frances on the cruise.