Tulsans help veterans to find ‘a way home’
I attended a church supper club Friday night. There were eight Sunday school class members in a home for a delicious meal. A Vietnam veteran was at our table. He described what it was like to serve and what it was like to come home.
"After I got home from Vietnam, I drank myself to sleep every night for 10 years. I did it so that I wouldn’t dream. In my dreams I was always back in the war. I couldn’t stand it."
That was quite a while ago. He no longer drinks like that.
"I have stuffed it down," he said. "It is in a deep place."
Hundreds of guests
Last Saturday we had hundreds and hundreds of veterans in our building. The event was "Stand Down for Homeless Veterans." The phrase "stand down" means "to relax from an alert."
It was a day of personal care for the men and women who are still suffering after serving in the military. Most of the guests were homeless or living in a transition.
Just about everything — medical checkups, haircuts, lots of clothes, shoes, gifts, food — was provided. The entire lower level of our main building was turned into a huge fair-like setup. There were booths everywhere.
The recipients were grateful and respectful. But I saw in their eyes what I heard at the dinner table on Friday.
Dignity and angst. Integrity and despair.
One of the guests at the Saturday event explained that he was homeless because he couldn’t get his life together.
"It is a rough way to live, but it is the only way I know how to live. I can’t get a job. I can’t keep an apartment. It was right for me to serve — but I will never be the same."
He said that being homeless is his way of life now. He has had no contact with his family members for years.
I have been thinking about his family. I am sure they wonder about him and would like to know if he is all right.
I was recently invited to give the invocation for the large Rotary Club that meets in (First Church’s) Thomas Hall each Tuesday. When I saw Jeff Jaynes on the speaker’s platform, I assumed his topic would be Restore Hope Ministries. (Rev. Jaynes is director of that United Methodist-related agency in Tulsa.)
I was wrong. He was there to speak about a Tulsa initiative called "A Way Home." It is the collaboration of 21 agencies working to end homelessness for veterans. Jeff is the chair of the committee.
In the last 12 months this initiative has brought over 400 homeless veterans into permanent housing. They are even building new housing just for homeless veterans. Many newly housed veterans have received much-needed help and are holding down jobs.
I was so thankful to hear there are people in Tulsa who are taking action to help the men and women who served our country. There is quite a cost to this freedom of ours and our veterans deserve all we can give.
(EDITOR’S NOTE: Veteran’s Day is observed nationally Nov. 11. Find resources at www.umcdiscipleship.org. This article is excerpted from Rev. Moffatt’s column on Sept. 16 in First Word, the church’s newsletter.)