- Walter, United States Air Force. Seven-and-one-half years.Honorably discharged. Toured in the Philippines, Korea, and The East.
By Nathan Brown, Communications VISTA at the American Legion Auxiliary. On September 13, veterans service groups came together at AMVETS Post 99 to provide a variety of services and goods for homeless and near-homeless veterans and their families during an event known as a stand down. Items such as clothing, hygiene items, bus passes, and other items were available for the veterans and were provided by groups like the American Legion Auxiliary and Veterans of Foreign Wars. Local barbers were on hand to provide haircuts and shaves and optometry services were available through the Indiana University School of Optometry. Department of Veterans Affairs representatives were also available to discuss care and benefits. The event was sponsored by HVAF, AMVETS Post 99, Disabled American Veterans, Marine Corps League, Roudebush V.A. Medical Center, the U.S. Department of Labor, and the Women Marines Association. We spoke with veterans in attendance and asked them to share their thoughts.
Walter (pictured above): The veterans here, the organization, helped me to get on my feet and got me a reasonably place to stay based on your income. The lord has blessed me. I'm getting better, but I have hiccups every now and then in terms of getting laid off or finding stable, stable work. So, it was really a blessing for me to take advantage of the kind of program that allows veterans to kind of come back to where we should be, but with some assistance if you need it.
- Gillie, Marine, Six years
Gillie: I'ma give it to you in a nutshell, man. I do delivery for Safeway United on 28th and Emerson. We were up North and there was a woman veteran with a limb, a prostheses on and she was at the entrance to the highway with a sign that said, "hey I'm a veteran anything you can do to help?" I don't think they're doing enough. They doing enough for us, but the one's that is coming back out the war, they need to direct some of that, more of that energy toward the people that are maimed. We've got a lot of maimed veterans and they shouldn't have to wait on nothing. Once you, if you come back maimed, it should be automatic that you get your disability or whatever you feel that's coming to you, man. I'm not faulting nobody, I'm just saying. We as a nation, we tend to focus on things that's not as important. But, that's really important and it needs to be addressed real quickly.
- IMG 5220 — Herman, Army. Served in Vietnam for 11 months and 28 days
Herman: I just come out here to be with my fellow veterans and celebrate and see of my old buddies I ain't seen in a long time.
- Roger; National Guard, Six years
Roger: I was homeless from '06 until probably a few months ago. Pretty much, I woke up in five, ten degrees below zero. It's not good.
- Joe Krodel; Army from 1982 to 1985
I've been through both rehab and the VA. I was homeless off and on for probably about ten years. I enjoy coming to these places because we get a lot of appreciation for veterans. I'm here for all of it. A lot of it's camaraderie and meeting veterans I haven't seen in years.
- Thomas, Marine Corps, 10 years.Served in Vietnam for two years (1967-1969).
Well I was shot stabbed and blown up. I was shot by a sniper. I was hit in the shoulder with a bayonet. Got blown up! I carry between 700 to 800 pieces of metal throughout my chest and shoulders. And I carry three in my heart and they can't take 'em out (laughs). I really loved the service and I love helping vets. And anyway I can help one, I'd be glad to go out of my way to help them because like I said, other vets helped me, so I got to help them. You know, when you get something done for you, you just want to give it to somebody else. When I first came back, I wouldn't talk to nobody. I would speak to a vet or another guy in service just to say hi, but the only people I would talk to would be Vietnam veterans, combat veterans. Because they're the ones that seen combat. But I love all branches of the services. I tease my wife all the time, I say, why'd ya marry me? Because she spent 20 years in the Army and couldn't find a good man in all that 2 millions guys she served with so she ended marrying a Marine.
- Duane, Army for three years. Tow, Drag and Repair Specialist. Currently training to become a Peer Support Specialist at the VA
I didn't see combat there, but I've sure seen it here. I've been shot, stabbed, sliced. I've got three metal plates and a piece of plastic in my face (laughs) just state-side you know. I've got PTSD issues from stuff like that. I've got alcohol and drug problems. Just in terms of training to become a peer specialist, I've learned more about myself and how to deal with definitions myself. To be able to approach veterans myself. Teach you about different cultures. A lot of people don't think about cultures. Upbringings. There's several different variables. I'll just sort of be there to try to assist them, giving them hope. I'm a recovering alcoholic and addict. It was hard for me to make that decision in life, but when you do, you don't know where you want to go, what you want to do. It's just a real confusing time in life. When I went through it, I had no help. I've been struggling since '09 in my recovery. I've been off drugs since January of '09. Next month I'll have a year and a half sober and that's a good milestone for me.
- Name Withheld, Marine Corps, Military Police, stationedin San Francisco
I think it's (the stand down) a very good thing man. Why it took so long, I don't know. It should be done every week. Every chance. It's truly a God-send and I thank you for it.
- Lee, Army/National Guard, served 17 months
A veteran is a person whop stood up. A stand down is a good thing for the people who stood up. They've done their duty, now it's for society to do theirs. I don't feel there should be any such animal as a homeless veteran. That's a man willing to stop bullets. I didn't have to stop bullets, thank God. People don't recognize or realize what they (veterans) sacrificed so other people, civilians, could live and be happy and be free. I think that ought to be recognized.
- Libbie McClarnon, Navy veteran. Comment withheld.