On Sunday, March 24, Mitch Albom, the award-winning Detroit Free Press columnist and best-selling author of Tuesdays With Morrie, wrote about a Vietnam veteran who recently passed away, alone and homeless. The vet, who served with honor as a Marine in Vietnam, was living on the mean streets of downtown Detroit, struggling with alcohol and poverty and confined to a wheelchair. As Albom asks, "Does this sound familiar?"
For too many vets, it does. This is especially true for Native vets. As ICTMN has reported, the 2010 Veteran Homelessness supplemental assessment report to Congress indicated a disturbing statistic that showed that American Indian and Alaska Native veterans who are poor are two times more likely to be homeless than American Indian and Alaska Native non-veterans who are poor
The Department of Veterans Affairs estimates that more than 300,000 vets are homeless on any given night. Here are excepts from Albom's poignant column on one of these men; read the full article here.
If you knew Sanderious Crocker, please read this.
He was 67. Folks called him Sam. He was living in poverty in downtown Detroit. A Vietnam veteran who was seriously wounded, he'd been homeless for a while. He struggled with alcohol. Maybe you know this. Maybe you don't. Maybe you lost touch. Maybe you wanted to.
Whatever the case, you should know that Sam's body had been sitting at a Detroit morgue for a week before a friend called me and asked whether there was a way to find his family — any family — because a soldier shouldn't die alone and neglected.
He left behind his papers. I am looking at his discharge form now. It says he served four years in the Marine Corps, in 1964-68. It says he earned badges for pistol and rifle marksmanship. It says he won several medals.
Under "Character of Service" is one word:
Maybe you knew Sam. Maybe you didn't. Maybe you feel bad for his ending. Maybe you don't. I can't sit here and tell you Sam was a great man or even a good one. But I do know he served when his country called, and he paid a price, and the military sent him off with the word "honorable."
Maybe we should do the same.