According to the “National Coalition for the Homeless” on any given night here in America, there are between 130,000-200,000 homeless veterans on the streets. To me this number is staggering. How can it be that so many people who risked their lives for OUR freedom are being neglected by the people they fought for?
Today I had the honor of meeting a True American Hero. The man I met was named Barry. Barry is just one Person from that huge number of homeless vets that have no place to live. It was 101 degrees out when I saw him standing on the corner with a cain in one hand and a sign in the other that read “Homeless disabled vet”.
I saw an awesome opportunity to show this man the love Jesus by sitting down with him and buying him a meal accompanied by a cold drink. The sun was setting so Barry and I found a nice spot in the shade and sat down to enjoy each others company for a bit.
Barry was raised in Tucson, Arizona. He didn’t have the best upbringing and was even beat by his mother for a period when he was younger. Barry was an avid golfer in high school and at one point was ranked top 2 in the state for his age bracket. When he was just 18 years of age, Barry made the selfless decision to enlist in the Marine Corps and fight in the Vietnam War. He felt like he was making the right decision in trying to help his country. His bravery should be commended by all of us.
After a long 11 months overseas fighting in this hellacious war, Barry was injured pretty bad. Him and his soldiers were bombarded by a mortar attack from opposing forces. While running away from the blasts, Barry was struck in the legs by shrapnel. The damage was extensive and Barry had to undergo months and months of surgeries and rehabilitation. He still walks with a limp today and must carry a cain to get around.
After being sent home from the war, life was difficult. He had plans to pursue his golfing talents, but because of his injuries this was out of the question for Barry. I didn’t really get into what he did for work after the War. Instead, for the most part I just enjoyed sitting there and talking about his time in the War as well as different things in life.
We had a great conversation about politics and religion, as well as our favorite authors and different hobbies we shared. Barry pulled out several different books to show me that he was reading. He buys them from thrift stores and wherever he can find a good deal. The first book he pulled out and was excited to show me was his Bible. He tries to keep two Bibles on him at all times, one for him to read and one to give away to someone without. The latest book he has started to read is about the Life and Teachings of Dr. Matin Luther King.
Barry Does not struggle with any drug addictions or alcohol problems. He is a good man and a faithful follower of Christ. He has unfortunately become a statistic like many other Brave Veterans. To me though, this man is so much more. He is a human being! a friend, and in my eyes.. a Hero for his service. I can’t imagine all the amazing stories that could be heard from homeless veterans all over the country. I was honored and humbled by my time with Barry and it was nice to see him smile so much today.
You never know what someone’s story is until you ask. Don’t make assumptions about other people based merely on what you see. You might miss out on sharing the Love of Jesus and hearing some amazing stories along the way.
“Without love, there is no reason to know anyone, for love will in the end connect us to our neighbors, our children and our hearts.” – Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.