I first met Joe in Arizona’s Sonoran Desert. He was a Marine who’d served in Vietnam where he’d been heavily sprayed with a military defoliant called Agent Orange. That had caused him to lose all his facial hair. In addition, surviving a number of jungle ambushes left him with an uncontrolled fear of the unknown, especially darkness.
At the time of his separation the VA was not yet recognizing contact with Agent Orange as a health threat. They turned him out in Hawaii with a partial disability based on his grade at the time of discharge which calculated to $90 per month. Unable to find work, he slept on the beach and dined out of dumpsters.
After several calendar months his file was reviewed, and he was once again set free to wander the streets. I don’t recall how many months he waited, but eventually they increased his benefit and he was able to migrate to the continent where I met him.
Frank was a kind, and generous person, but he’d lost his trust in his fellow man. Consequently, he was very hard to know. But after several months he met an army paratrooper who had taken a bullet in the chest while dropping into a site in Vietnam. A woman friend had shown him how to file a claim in such a way that he would receive full compensation for his injuries.
Following his friend’s directions changed his life.