Diary Of A Hollywood Refugee

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

A Dark Stain

When I worked in LA, most Thanksgiving weekends would find me on a plane back home, except for one time. Turns out that every Thanksgiving Day the city of Santa Monica hosts a huge event for the less fortunate in LA. Lots of volunteers give away services and a huge Thanksgiving buffet is set up. I volunteered to spend the afternoon working to feed those less fortunate. It was a monumental task. While we are so focused on Hollywood' s rich and famous, we tend to forget that there is a huge number of people who are anything but rich or famous, and for whom a hot meal, a haircut, a new set of clothes, and some companionship is a rare luxury.

I worked the food line, serving up meals for about two hours. Then I had a chance to wander about and talk with whomever I wanted. In the far corner I noticed a group of four guys, somewhat apart from the crowd of people at the tables eating this wonderful feast. All the food and drink is donated and you cannot imagine the quantity and quality that was available. The tables are very long, seating about 50 people per table, and there were about 200 tables all filled with people.

But these four guys sat alone and apart from everyone else. So I headed over towards them, with my tray of food, and asked if I could join them. They smiled, stood up, and said yes. (Such gentlemen, blew me away, no one stands up anymore for a lady) I joined them, and started with the usual introductions and pleasantries. I noticed one guy had a baseball cap that had a unit and platoon insignia on it, so I asked about it.

It was then that I found out that ALL FOUR of these guys had served in Nam! I was blown away. Four vets serve our country -albeit in a war that perhaps should never have happened - and their homeless!!! Politics aside, that ANYONE who served in our military should now be destitute in a country as rich as ours sickened me! Hell it ANGERED me!!

I asked if we could talk about their experiences in Nam, and their experiences upon returning. They were totally cool about that and offered up alot of painful details. Sometimes one just needs a chance to talk about the bad and the ugly as well as the good.


Two were Marines, two Army. Two drafted, and two had already been enlisted 6 months prior to our participation in Nam. Where others ran, they served.

I had been to DC the year previous and I made a point of talking to them about the Vietnam Memorial in the Mall. You cannot read the names listed on that Memorial without tearing up. It was a deeply emotional experience for me, and I shared it with them.

They had no doubt that they would have personally served with some of those guys named on the wall....and it dawned on me that they clearly didn't have the means to make their way to DC to see this beautiful and evocative Memorial, and that broke my heart!

Long story short,after spending three hours in great conversation with them, I asked if we could stay in touch, got their vitals and gave them mine. I spent one weekend a month hanging with them for about a year, taking them out for dinner, catching a few movies, talking about life, politics, Hollywood, anything and everything.

One died of natural causes about 18 months after we had that fateful lunch together, one killed himself 6 months after that.


The fact that they had never seen the Vietnam Memorial plagued me. So I decided to surprise the remaining to guys. Using the free air miles I had accumulated on my business trips I flew the two surviving vets to DC for a weekend, and using the hotel points I had accumulated I put them up in a nice hotel. I found a way to discreetly pay for their meals and provide cash for them to be able to enjoy DC.

They came back, we hooked up for dinner and they were glowing as they shared with me ALL the details of that weekend. I don't know who was more joyous and excited, them or me, but they deserved every exciting second they had experienced!

We stayed in touch for a long time, but once I moved away from LA, it became much harder to connect...they had no phones, no Internet, and no real home address. I hope that wherever they may be - they are warm, fed, and at peace.

I felt compelled to do something to repay them for their service, and to make up for the awful treatment they received from our nation. Sadly few people at that time in Hollywood shared my feelings.

The impact this chance encounter on Thanksgiving Day had on me, combined with my relationship with a certain"Marine Man" who holds a special place in my heart, is the reason I relentlessly support our deployed troops with emails and care packages.

This War on Terror is NEVER to be confused with Vietnam -they are NOT one and the same! We seem to be far kinder and more generous in our treatment of soldiers and Marines who have fought in Iraq and Afghanistan, but our treatment of those who served in Nam is shameful, and remains a dark stain on us individually and collectively.

7 Comments:

  • At 3:34 PM, April 27, 2005, Anonymous cw4billt said…

    A heartfelt "Thank You, Ma'am"...

    May God bless you and heal your every hurt, easing the pain quietly, gently from your heart.

     
  • At 8:29 PM, April 27, 2005, Blogger Huntress said…

    *wipes tears from her eyes* You are very welcome, CW. Be well.

     
  • At 12:23 AM, April 28, 2005, Blogger Barb said…

    Huntress - I am sorry for your loss. You are wonderful - such a generous thing you did, and great things you continue to do...

     
  • At 8:04 AM, April 28, 2005, Anonymous Cricket said…

    Would that we all could do as much.
    Thank you for reminding us what we owe
    and some ways to repay it.

    Bill, you are SOOOOOOOO in trouble for making me cry....

     
  • At 11:59 AM, April 28, 2005, Blogger thebossman said…

    Wow, I am so very impressed. I ran into your blog by accident, but after reading this entry first I promise I will keep reading more.

    Thanks for helping soldiers who have served this country. I hope that one day somebody will be able to repay you for your kindness when you need it most!

     
  • At 2:44 AM, April 29, 2005, Blogger Me! said…

    Wow H. What an awesome gesture. I work in the American Legion (Vet's organization) and have a soft spot for Nam Vets. It's more than a dark stain...it's an absolutley disgusting shame the way our government and citizens treat our vets. I posted this

    http://keithrants.blogspot.com/2004_12_01_keithrants_archive.html

    after reading an article about Gulf War II vets showing up homeless already. I think it's damn time our people start taking care of our warriors...they are THE sole reason we can do what we do.

    John 15:13-Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.

    My sympathy in your loss...may the Comforter provide you with peace.

    K~

     
  • At 5:42 AM, May 03, 2005, Blogger Huntress said…

    Keith - nice to see you again....hope you've found some time to connect with God during the past week or so.

    Bossman - Welcome to my blog, and thank you for your kind words. I have been blessed in many ways, serendiptious gifts that appear out of nowhere, God's Grace in action.

    Drop by again...don't be a stranger!

    Cricket, nice to meet you. Any friend of Bill's ...is undoubtedly a bit crazy...LOL in a GOOOOOOD way.

    Barb... Im doing fine, thank you for dropping by.....pls don't be a stranger.

    Bill - HUGS, my friend, MAJOR BIG HUGS!

     

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