HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) – Each veteran at the Downtown Rescue Mission in Huntsville on Veterans Day was recognized and presented with a special gift commemorating their service to their country. 

It was a moment that retired Colonel Chris Parker said for them to forget about their struggle to readjust back into society. 

“I’m happy that places like the Huntsville mission is here to support those that are struggling with life because I believe most challenges in life can be overcome,” said Col. Parker.  

Parker served 30 years in the U.S. Air Force. He told his story to his fellow veterans at the mission but noted that there are far too many veterans without accessible community resources to support their mental health and physical well-being. 

“We love them when they’re gone doing their duty but when they return home, we seem to forget about them,” Parker noted. “That’s heartbreaking for our veteran community.” 

Robert Parker, also a retired colonel, is the brother of Colonel Chris Parker. Both men offered support to the group that they call family and shared resources and information on the best ways to recover and seek housing. 

“The best that we can do is to make sure that they are constantly aware of the things that are available to them as much as possible and never stop,” said Robert Parker.  

Keith Overholt Downtown Rescue Mission told News 19 that there are more veterans living in shelters or emergency facilities like the Downtown Rescue Mission during a single night. 

“In this country, there are about 650,000 people that are homeless and about 20 percent of that population are veterans,” Overholt explained. “It breaks my heart that they serve the country and they come back, and some end up because of alcoholism or drug addiction or because of what they through serving in the military that they ended up being homeless.” 

Col. Chris Parker says there are more homeless veterans that are unaccounted for.

“You wonder how big that number is if people that aren’t at least coming in and knocking on the door asking for help. It’s got to be a lot bigger than that. it’s a sad number,” said Chris Parker.  

The Downtown Rescue Mission provides food, clothing and shelter to the homeless veterans of northern Alabama. For more information on the Downtown Rescue Mission go here.