Art of Aging: Advocate for veterans

OCEAN CITY, N.J. (WPVI) -- Every Saturday afternoon from 2 to 4, you can hear Joe Griffies on WIBG Radio in Ocean City.

He's a veteran advocate who fights for his "blood brothers and sisters" every day.

"You know we kind of take the coast guard for granted," said Joe.

The Vietnam veteran hosts what's called The Welcome Home Show.

"Because like all Vietnam Veterans we never got the appropriate welcome home," added Beau Weisman, Korean War Airforce Veteran of Cape May Courthouse.

The show serves as a sounding board and gathering place for veterans of all wars.

"I don't think we do a very good job in this country of taking care of our veterans," said Joe.

Joe's activism was sparked by his own feelings of mistreatment, several years ago, when he went to court to fight a traffic citation.

He said, "When I went to the court house, I was insulted because I had a Vietnam veterans hat on, and I was really angry, and I came out, and my wife said, "Either do something about it, or forget it."

He decided to do something. His first battle on behalf of veterans was over beach badges.

Joe said, "Why do veterans go to World War II, Guadalcanal, Wake - fought on the beaches in foreign countries for our freedom and then have to buy a beach badge when they come back to New Jersey."

So he lobbied Governor Christie and the state legislature to pass a bill granting military families free access to New Jersey beaches.
"It's not necessarily to save the veteran 20 dollars or 25 dollars, it's all about letting the veteran know he hasn't been forgotten about, said Joe.

He's now on a mission to help young vets returning from war in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"One of the things veterans don't know when they come home is, there are a lot of benefits available. Nobody really looks out and says, 'Well, what do I have coming to me?' Joe tells you," said Beau.

His goal is to shine a spotlight on the needs of vets, from jobs to health care to the startling number of suicides with an estimated 22 veterans a day taking their own lives.

Joe says, "Veterans are the only people that raised their hand and are willing to die for our country. We should treat our veterans like royalty when they
come home."

For more stories and programs for seniors, visit our Art of Aging section.
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