Sunday, November 11, 2007

Known but to God...

For the veterans for whom home is the street

My college was very close to my sister’s and I used to take The T in to visit her at her dorm. I’d walk through my beautifully landscaped campus to the station, hop on the train and watch the suburbs of Boston fly by.

The train would stop as trains are supposed to do…I’d exit and trek through Cambridge, down familiar streets…past the Coop…and finally arrive at her dorm. And I always noticed the familiar…the rally posters stuck to any and every available space of wall, the stuffy looking professors (or maybe they were just grad students fronting)…the cars that never seemed to move and the traffic that held them captive…and two homeless vets playing chess outside of Au Bon Pain.

Two men…of a certain age…who were veterans and who were homeless. Both wearing some portion of a uniform, one without a leg and the other unable to make eye contact but with the chessboard before him. There they sat, sipping coffee and taking a break from the struggle of life to play chess at a table in the middle of all the action that is a city-based college campus.

When I mentioned them to an acquaintance she instantly doubted that they were really veterans and seemed annoyed that they didn’t “take advantage of the many programs available for homeless people in Boston”.

But she never really saw them. Hell, most of the students who waltzed by doing their best Paper Chase imitation didn’t see the homeless. They saw a hustler or a drunk or a loser or a drop out, but they didn’t see an addict or a mentally ill person or a woman down on her luck or the families with children…or the veterans.

One November day I made my journey to visit my sister...walking through the campus devoid of city dirt and city problems, to the train station and onto the train, watching the suburbs of Boston flying by and down familiar streets until I stood where two homeless men were playing chess.

Both wearing some portion of a uniform, one without a leg and the other unable to make eye contact but with the chessboard before him.

And there was an American flag, crisp and clean in contrast to the dust and dirt, tucked into a backpack at their feet. I’ve always wondered…and preferred to believe…that the flag had appeared that day because they were marking Veteran’s Day.

This Veteran's Day I remember them as I watch the ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknowns.

Here rests in honored glory an American Soldier known but to God.

What does it say about us as a people, that we can honor their combat and mourn their death but we lack the will to support our soldiers in life?

Today is the 11th day of the 11th month...Veteran's Day...and many rest on the streets wondering where the honored glory is for a homeless American soldier known but to God.

Please support these local organizations and the work that they do...

Places for People - Opening doors for hope and recovery for the mentally ill homeless.

St. Patrick Center - Provides opportunities for self-sufficiency and dignity to persons who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless.

Peter and Paul Community Services - Helping our neighbors find a way home.

...until we study war no more.


Maya's Granny said...

And if only WWI had ended all wars!

If only we took better care of our veterans.

Anonymous said...

I remember a different homeless vet from that time, Fu. He had a green coat with lots of pockets, shaggy brown hair and crutches. His legs sort of dragged behind him and he was surly-but-silent when he panhandled. I saw him regularly and he oddly reminded me of Jesus. A beggar, sent to teach us something we couldn't learn in class. Every time I saw him I wondered if Jesus came back as a homeless vet how long it would take people to recognize him. I adopted him as my Christy's devotional and gave him the change regularly. We never spoke. I wonder what he's doing now ...

Great post.

Anonymous said...

Thank you. Beautifully written.

PortlyDyke said...

Another beautiful post, ABB -- bringing me to tears.

On another day, I might just say I'm a mushy old bitch, but today, I'd say these tears are well-warranted.

Infuriated Faggot said...

Hey ABB! Nice Post. You know my man works with Brother Rob at Places for People as a Counselor. Nice!

I'm currently, with a friend from Spain, starting a homeless charity here in Amsterdam, NL "Manos Abiertas" which focuses on feeding the homeless here. 1 in 200 people in Amsterdam are homeless (4,000) and shelters here can only accomodate 600 people. 82% of the homeless are Dutch. 29% of these people are 'dual diagnosis' patients and 25% are on drugs. The mean age for homeless here is 42.

Unfortunately for Amsterdam, often viewed as a very progressive city, our homeless ratio is greater than that in NYC, Paris, Berlin and San Francisco. Uh, shit!

Regardless of how they become homeless (veterans, mentally ill, violence in home, illegals, etc) we've got to do something to decrease the number of homeless people (assuming they want to be in homes- there are many here that choose to live on the street).

So, anyway, this was a nice post! Keep working to help those who need and want it!

Anonymous said...

Beautiful post.

It's amazing how people forget that "sale" dosn't automatically follow the words "Veteran's Day" and that there's a point to the holiday.

Sadly, we're making more disabled vets as we speak (to replace the ones from the street lost by attrition.), and we'll probably turn away from them too.


Terrible said...

This angy white bum would like to thank a bitch for her most excellent writings. May we study war no more very soon.

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