A chance find in his dresser drawer has awakened a whirlwind of emotions for one veteran. Will, 69, a retired private in the Marines, was brought to tears recently when he re-read a long-lost letter he sent to his best friend Jim when he was a strapping young soldier fighting in the Vietnam War.
The discovery took Will completely by surprise, and he both cried and laughed as he read the questions he had asked his friend. The letter, dated 1965, was a flashback to a time when he was alone, separated from his family, but excited about opportunities. However, it is also a painful reminder of the past. A lot of the men in his division were killed. “It’s difficult talking out loud about it to other people,” Will said who was later diagnosed with PTSD. “When I get lonely I like to look back at the letter, but when I first read it after all this time my hands were shaking.”
The letter is a window into how close the bonds are in service. Today, Will’s friend, Jim, is retired and lives in Florida. Jim knew about HVAF’s programs and services and when he learned that Will had become homeless in April 2016, he suggested he reach out for help. He moved into the Manchester Apartments, one of HVAF’s 13 transitional properties, where he joins a weekly grief and loss group. It’s an opportunity to educate, support, and help veterans build coping skills.
“HVAF has been a godsend to me,” says Will. “I came in struggling to walk, relying on a walker as my back was deteriorating as a result of the work I did for decades as a Fork Lifter. HVAF has been able to give me space to heal emotionally, physically, and mentally.”
HVAF was an important step in his journey as he was able to have a safe place to open up and share painful experiences.