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Veterans Day, 2016

Written by Tom Armstrong
November 13, 2016
Article from the Sac Bee.
An article in the Bee, "Homeless veterans hailed at new park," ballyhooed events at Loaves & Fishes honoring homeless veterans and the New Friendship Park, itself, where the day’s event took place. We’re told that a circular fountain was in place in the New Park. Whether it is the new $200,000 Fountain-with-a-Wall that Libby Fernandez has been raising money for, or the fountain with etched names brought over from the Old Park, the article doesn’t say.

We are told that veterans who came to the ceremony were given gold pins and American flags. In a large picture that went with the article, James Guidi is seen having just been given a pin.  He looks pleased. A picture with text on either the black shirt he is wearing, or the strap from a bag he is carrying reads “You are not forgotten.” The caption to the picture says that Guidi is a veteran of the Vietnam War.

I know James. He is an excellent person; a standout among the homeless fellows I have known. He is serious and acts as an adult in Homeless World where many of the guys are seldom serious.

There was a period of time when I was especially aware of James. We were both using the Union Gospel Mission as our shelter and, just coincidentally, we each had bunks for a few weeks in the “islands” [Bunks in the middle of the dorm floor, not set against a wall.], but also close to the entrance door. James made an impression on me then because he would call a woman he was married to (or going with?) each night before “lights out” [i.e., that time when the guys were required to settle in for sleep

I wasn’t listening in to the phone conversations, but from what scraps of talk I heard – and from only James’ side of what was said – the couple had a wholly healthy, compassionate relationship. It was a nice thing. In Homeless World, usually what you hear from couples are words that reflect the pair as being in a long, on-going furious battle. James, contrariwise, is a great, good guy. Everything about him says that. Doubtless, he was an excellent member of the military, way back in the day. A credit to the uniform he wore.

About five months ago, I remember seeing James near the College Green light rail station. He was on a bicycle and had a big American flag with him. Stupid me, I couldn’t think of much to say. Our conversation was stilted and short. But I was very happy to see him.

Another veteran given prominent attention in the Bee article is 22-year-old Joshua Bowman. Bowman made a plea for help that was quoted in the article. Specifically, he sought one-on-one counseling as an entryway for him to escape his homeless circumstance -- and, thus, to pull himself up to a life that is happy and productive.

Many homeless fellows that I know have gotten help from military sources to put their lives on track. Other fellows I know, who have less-than-exemplary military-service records, are not receiving aid from military sources to address their homeless circumstance. These guys do get life-long free medical care as veterans, but are not getting the extra attention they had hoped for to quickly and significantly address their woebegone homeless situation.

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