His eyes close. Flicker open. Close again. Sleep comes. He’s an Eagle Scout, building a teepee. The day is warm, the other Scouts are near and he can smell supper cooking, the twining odors of meat, vegetables, and bread making his stomach growl.
Another twitch of the lids and he feels the oppressive heat and humidity of the Mekong Delta pressing in on him from all sides, filling his lungs with air so thick breathing is work. There’s blood. He sits up and looks at the blood from the land mine shrapnel.
Once a Marine, always a Marine.
Memories like a slide show. Ground control at a Space Center. Interdicts on the high seas in a Coast Guard cutter. Smiling faces of his children beaming up at him. Daddy. Daddy. Working in a garden store. Desensitization therapy for PTSD. Bicycling. Holding up a sign on a corner “Veteran will work for food.” Police politely ask him to move along.
He wakes in a strange room with strange people. Smells of the recent dinner comfort him. He’s full and warm in a room where all but one is a stranger. Two women pack food from the meal, pull frozen food from the freezer and fill a cooler. The others talk about feeding the homeless vets in a nearby shelter. They talk about how fortunate they are that most of them are employed again. How can they help the unemployed or partially employed among them? They notice he’s awake and ask him sit with them and be a part of their community.
It is late. He’s got food in a bag. He’s got money in his pocket. Come back. He starts his ancient car. The food pantries say he makes too much money for help, even though he has no money left over to eat. The Druid woman he met made sure he was fed to bursting and he’ll have food for the rest of the month – some she will fix for him. When he’s back on his feet he’ll help feed the homeless vets. He’s promised. Marines keep their promises. Semper Fi.
This is someone else’s story through my eyes from memories shared and stories told. It is a shameful tale of how our country treats our veterans. Is there some reason men and women we send to war and serve our country with honor and distinction are homeless or hungry, neglected, and all too often alone? The Fifth Century Reconstructionist community is vanishingly small, but we believe in honoring contracts to provide for our warriors who served and at the very least we can help feed them and help them find jobs.