What would you do?

 

My late husband was a Vietnam Veteran…  He was a Navy Seal who served for 37 months “In Country…”  He volunteered for the first Veteran’s Stand Down in our county…  He knew many homeless veterans & I met some through him…  Most were homeless by choice, but a few sought help… 

I felt bad for the ones who were living on the street, one in particular…  His name was Pete…  Sorry I don’t remember his last name…  I do remember that he was from somewhere in New Jersey…  Before he went into the service he had been a Volunteer Fireman for his small town…  My husband “Billy,” told me that because Pete was of a slight build he was perfectly suited to become a “Tunnel Rat…”  That term is used to describe someone whose job it was to go down deep into the tunnels that the Viet Cong dug for themselves, and clear the way through them by any means… 

I don’t remember if he served one or two tours…  If he only served one, it was one too many just like so many of our young men who wound up over there…  When Pete came home he never went back home…  The horrors of war were just too great, and haunted him with PTSD…  His self esteem was another casualty…  Pete lived on the street because he would drink to try to forget, but I guess that would never happen… 

I’ll never forget him…  Like so many others he was a super nice person…  He always treated me with respect…  When Billy & I would happen to meet him we would invite him over to our little duplex for a home cooked meal…  You would have thought that we gave him a seven course meal…  Of course the meal would make him sleepy, and he would crash on the couch…  That didn’t happen often because he never wanted to feel like he was imposing on us… 

When I would see him when he was drinking he was still a gentleman…  Billy & him used to talk whenever they would get together, and I would mostly listen…  Billy had his own demons to fight…  I tried talking to Pete several times about getting sober, but I guess he felt like that was mission impossible…  One night it must have been too much for him…  They found his body the next morning behind one of the bars that he used to hang out in…  Pete was only 37 years old if I remember right… 

Billy had inpired me to write a Welcome Home for the Vietnam Veterans…  There are two copies in The Library of Congress, a copy in The Smithsonian Institute, and a copy in The National Naval Museum at The Naval Air Station in Pensacola, Florida…  I had the privilege of dedicating it to Pete because Billy asked me to recite it at his funeral…  Needless to say, I was only too proud to do that even though I had to wipe the tears away as I was reading it…  

I hadn’t thought about him for a very long time until I saw that video tonight…  I’m so grateful to have been reminded of him…  I’m just so sorry that his story didn’t have a better ending…  I have always felt like we had lost an entire generation over there…  I was truly blessed to have met some of the homeless from that era…  I will end with one of my favorite hymns…

 

 

 

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