BY IVAN FLORES
Washtenaw Community College’s veterans have been rocking beards with a purpose for a couple of months now. The Student Veteran’s Association is running a GoFundMe campaign with Michigan Ability Partners to support homeless veterans. The fundraiser, called Bearded Vets for Homeless Vets, started on Veteran’s Day and will continue through Memorial Day, with the goal of raising $5,000.
Bruce Portnoff, president of SVA and Hospital Corpsman, second class, explained how the project got started.
“In the military, you have to shave every day. The beard just became this thing that veterans hold dear because they couldn’t have it in the military. It’s kind of like a sign of freedom that’s shared among veterans. They wanted to grow their beards out, but they wanted to do it for a good cause,” Portnoff said.
In an effort to raise more awareness for the cause and to help those less endowed with facial hair, SVA is also planning a 5k run called the Funk Run.
The event is named in honor Sgt. Major Leonard Funk, a Medal of Honor recipient. He received the medal for overpowering his German captors during World War II after his laughter at their language caught them off guard. The event will tentatively be held in the spring and the date is yet to be determined.
The fundraiser follows an earlier initiative by SVA to help veterans in the community. During the fall semester, the club ran a successful clothes drive. However, the bearded vet fundraiser has had a slow start. As of Jan. 27, the donations stand at $250.
Army veteran Landon Dupee, commented on the fundraiser:
“We need a lot more support. We’re coming up real shy of where I think we should be, especially for the cause.”
Dupee also cited Virginia’s efforts to combat homelessness in the veteran population as an example worth following. According to the Huffington Post, Virginia became the first state to officially end veteran homelessness in the fall of 2015.
Josh Jones, also an Army veteran, is among those who have been wearing a beard since before the fundraiser. Why? Because, “they’re freaking amazing.” The other vets interviewed for this story had their own reasons.
Among them, “It covers up your ugliness.”
“I don’t want to look like a 12-year-old.”
“It covers up the double chin.”
“If you were required to shave every day for nine years…”
And, randomly, “You can’t not smile when somebody boops your nose.”
To support the veterans, please go to tinyurl.com/beardedvets .