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    On the battle front against veteran homelessness

    Retired US Air Force Lt. Col. Vincent J. Perrone signs the historic membership book of the Ancient and Honorable Artillery Company of Massachusetts while Captain Commanding Brigadier General Robert E. Welch looks on.

    In 1990, US Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Vincent J. Perrone Jr. was on the Joint Staff Operational Command Center for Desert Storm when he heard a news report that 450,000 homeless veterans were living on American streets — and that number could soar to 1.2 million on any given night.

    “Here I was, helping to send 565,000 troops to war in Iraq, and now I know some of them will come back and be homeless. I was very troubled by it,” said Perrone, now retired following a 20-year military career. “I made a promise to myself that if that happened, I was going to get involved.”

    Perrone has been fulfilling that promise since 1993, when the Boylston resident became president of Veterans Inc. Incorporated in 1990, the Worcester-based nonprofit organization has assisted more than 65,000 veterans and their families through offices and programs in all six New England states.

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    Perrone led the agency in providing comprehensive support services and expanding its outreach to include females and veterans of all eras and their children. The most recent endeavor is a 32-bed inpatient clinical stabilization program in Shrewsbury to aid veterans and non-veterans in fighting the opioid crisis.

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    Perrone served on the late Senator Edward M. Kennedy’s task force for returning veterans of Afghanistan and Iraq, and on former Governor Deval Patrick’s Commission to End Homelessness. A veteran’s services agent for the Town of Boylston, he is a board member for the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans.

    In recognition of his distinguished military career and advocacy, Perrone was recently elected into the Ancient and Honorable Artillery Company of Massachusetts, the oldest chartered military organization in the western hemisphere dating back to 1638. His previous awards and decorations include the Defense Meritorious Service Medal, Meritorious Service Medal, Air Force Commendation Medal, Air Force Achievement Medal, and National Defense Service Medal.

    Perrone said he was “humbled and flattered” by this most recent honor, and hopes it will bring further awareness to the contributing factors of veteran homelessness.

    “To be a homeless person in America is a tragedy, but to be a homeless, honorably-served veteran is a disgrace,” Perrone said. “Just like our motto says: They were there when we needed them. We must be there now that they need us.”

    For more information, call 800-482-2565 or visit veteransinc.org.

    Cindy Cantrell can be reached at cindycantrell20@gmail.com.