Advancing National Service

This Former Drill Sergeant Wants to Introduce You to Homeless Vets

February 10, 2014
This Former Drill Sergeant Wants to Introduce You to Homeless Vets
Jerry Tovo has photographed over 100 veteran homeless in the U.S. and hopes to bring public attention to the people who once fought for their country, but are not fighting to survive. Jerry Tovo
Jerry Tovo is a photographer and former Vietnam-era drill sergeant who isn't letting homeless vets go unacknowledged.

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.”

MORE: This Injured Veteran Healed Himself. Now He’s Bringing His Secret to Others