True to drill sergeant form, Jerry Tovo wants to be seen and heard, loud and clear. A 68-year-old veteran and photographer, Tovo hopes to give faces to the mere facts and figures of veteran homelessness in the U.S. So far, he has photographed more than 100 veterans in Chicago, Indianapolis, Nashville, Washington D.C., and New York City. Tovo has undertaken the project as part of his nonprofit, They May Have Been Heroes: The Homeless Veterans Project.
An exhibit of the photographs, called “I Was a Soldier,” is on display at the Missouri History Museum in St. Louis, but Tovo hopes to gather enough support and acclaim to display it at the Newseum in Washington D.C. Tovo has invested more than $35,000 in the project and isn’t stopping there — he’s also working on a book about his travels. Any money donated to his campaign goes to his travel costs and to National Veterans Homeless Support. Tovo wants people to see what these veterans go through and doesn’t want anyone to assume the worst about them. “People tend to generalize that these guys are all just a bunch of drunks and alcoholics,” Tovo told Florida Today. “That they’re happy where they are. But every one of these people, every one of them, have their own story. There’s a reason why they are where they are.”