Thursday, May 14, 2020

String of miracles: Marine in Iraq found his family because of funeral for homeless veteran

Vietnam Veteran Andrew Elmer Wright


PTSD Patrol
Kathie Costos
May 14, 2020

I have always had my heart tugged by homeless veterans.

Veteran Major Thomas Lawrence Egan, received many decorations for his service. He died homeless and alone in Eugene Oregon...in the snow. It was not that people did not try to help him. Many tried, but for whatever reason, he did not manage to accept what he needed from anyone.

The story of homeless veteran Richard Leroy Walters proved the we never know how much they are suffering...or how much they care about others.
Every day on NPR, listeners hear funding credits — or, in other words, very short, simple commercials. A few weeks ago, a new one made it to air: "Support for NPR comes from the estate of Richard Leroy Walters, whose life was enriched by NPR, and whose bequest seeks to encourage others to discover public radio."

NPR's Robert Siegel wondered who Walters was. So Siegel Googled him.

An article in the online newsletter of a Catholic mission in Phoenix revealed that Walters died two years ago at the age of 76. He left an estate worth about $4 million. Along with the money he left for NPR, Walters also left money for the mission.

But something distinguished Walters from any number of solvent, well-to-do Americans with seven-figure estates: He was homeless.
There are many stories about homeless veterans, but the one that stands out the most in my mind, is the string of miracles that happened, because the story grabbed my heart.

Story from Wounded Times

Vietnam Vet Andrew Elmer Wright found a home as a homeless vet


March 25, 2010

A simple casket with an American flag for Vietnam Veteran Andrew Elmer Wright.

A simple bouquet of flowers was placed with a simple photo a church member snapped.

By all accounts, Andrew was a simple man with simple needs but what was evident today is that Andrew was anything but a "simple" man.

A few days ago I received an email from Chaplain Lyle Schmeiser, DAV Chapter 16, asking for people to attend a funeral for a homeless Vietnam veteran. After posting about funerals for the forgotten for many years across the country, I felt compelled to attend.

As I drove to the Carey Hand Colonial Funeral Home, I imagined an empty room knowing how few people would show up for a funeral like this. All the other homeless veteran stories flooded my thoughts and this, I thought, would be just one more of them.

When I arrived, I discovered the funeral home was paying for the funeral. Pastor Joel Reif, of First United Church of Christ asked them if they could help out to bury this veteran and they did. They put together a beautiful service with Honor Guard and a 21 gun salute by the VFW post.

I asked a man there what he knew about Andrew and his eyes filled. He smiled and then told me how Andrew wouldn't drink the water from the tap. He'd send this man for bottled water, always insisting on paying for it. When the water was on sale, he'd buy Andrew an extra case of water but Andrew was upset because the man didn't use the extra money for gas.

Then Pastor Joel filled in more of Andrew's life. Andrew got back from Vietnam, got married and had children. His wife passed away and Andrew remarried. For some reason the marriage didn't work out. Soon the state came to take his children away. Andrew did all he could to get his children back, but after years of trying, he gave up and lost hope.

A few years ago, after going to the church for help from the food pantry, for himself and his cats, Andrew lost what little he had left. The tent he was living in was bulldozed down in an attempt to clear out homeless people from Orlando. Nothing was left and he couldn't find his cats.

Andrew ended up talking to Pastor Joel after his bike was stolen again, he'd been beaten up and ended up sleeping on church grounds in the doorway. Pastor Joel offered him the shed in the back of the church to sleep in so that he wouldn't have to face more attacks.

The shed had electricity and they put in a TV set, a frying pan and a coffee maker. They wanted to give Andrew more but he said they had already given him enough.

Pastor Joel told of how Andrew gave him a Christmas card with some money in it one year. Pastor Joel didn't want to take money from someone with so little, but Andrew begged him to take it saying "Please, don't take this away from me" because it was all he had to give and it meant a lot to give it to the Pastor. Much like the widow with two cents gave all she had in the Bible, Andrew was truly grateful for what little he had been given from the church.

What was soon made clear is that Pastor Joel gave him even more than he imagined. Andrew took it on himself to be the church watchman. While services were going on after Andrew greeted the parishioners, he would travel around the parking lot to make sure the cars were safe. At night he made sure any guests of the church were equally watched over. Pastor Joel not only gave him a roof over his head and food, he gave him something to make him feel needed.

More and more people came to the service and there was a lot of weeping as Pastor Joel spoke. What was very clear this day is that Andrew was called a homeless veteran but he was not homeless. He found one at the church. He lost his family and his children, but he found a family at the church.

From what was said about Andrew, he was a Vietnam veteran with PTSD and he wanted no help from the VA. Too many of them feel the same way and they live on the streets, depending on the kindness of strangers to help them out. Andrew wasn't one of the panhandlers we see in Orlando. He refused to beg for money and he wanted to work for whatever he was given. His health got worse but he still did what he could. Right up until March 16, 2010 when Andrew passed away, no matter what happened to him during his life, Andrew proved that this veteran was not hopeless, not helpless because he found the fulfillment of hope in the arms of strangers who took him in and he found help as he asked as well as gave.

The legacy of this homeless veteran is that he touched the lives of so many hearts and will never be forgotten.

Behind this church, in a tiny shed, Andew spent his last hours on this earth. Born in Riverside Park NJ on November 5, 1938 he returned to God on March 16, 2010. read the rest here

Rebecca's food pantry was started by parents after their daughter died. Because of that gift of love, a homeless veteran, was adopted by the church. That church gave him a home and a family. Because of the love they had for him, the funeral touched me so much so, that I had to post about it.

The veteran loved his children and never stopped searching for them. A son was in the Marines, serving in Iraq, and never gave up lookin for his Dad. A wife, loved her husband and carried on the search. Because of the post, she found it and contacted her husband. He was in Iraq when his search ended by being notified his Dad was gone.

That is not the end of the story. The son contacted Pastor Joel and found out how much his Dad loved him...and how much the church loved his Dad.

When the son returned from Iraq, he met Pastor Joel and was given the flag from the funeral. The son was also able to find his siblings after that.

This is what happened after the story came out.
First United Church of Christ proved that miracles can still happen. They took in a homeless Vietnam Veteran, gave him love and gave a family closure. His son was serving in the Marines when he found out what happened to his Dad. A simple casket with an American flag for Vietnam Veteran Andrew Elmer Wright.

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