On May 16th, we made a visit to the Florida National Cemetery in
Bushnell(Florida). As we entered, we were greeted with a quiet respect and dignity. The welcome was extended not because of who we were, but because of the man we had come to visit, Sgt. William "Billy" Donald Healey Jr., USAF, a veteran of the Persian Gulf War era. His service bought us respect. As we entered, the Patriot Guard stood waiting to pay tribute to a casualty of the current war. We found section 324, grave 3157. Across the road three freshly dug graves waited to provide a final rest for others who served. A year ago, Billy lay on the railroad tracks and waited. He lived in St. Augustine for a year. He worked, had friends and hopes but was invisible to most of us. He was one of the homeless. On that morning a year ago, his hope died. Then he died. No family. No place to call home. No refuge from the weather.
No acknowledgment of his service, his humanity or even his existence.Yet, the years he served bought me, a stranger, respect. A small bouquet of flowers and a quick salute to a brother-in-arms I never knew.
We veterans make up less than 13% of the population and 30% of the
homeless. 18 veterans commit suicide every day.
Don't worry about it America. In a few years we will be mostly dead or
incarcerated and the "problem" will be solved. In the meantime, I have
a debt to repay a fallen brother.
- - Terry Buckenmeyer, former SP6, U.S. Army, Member Vets for Peace