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Deep Breaths, Strong Heart

Last week, we received a call from a panicking Veteran. A Young man, mid-forties, Screaming Eagle - 101st Airborne Veteran with more than one combat tour.

Jimmy, as I'll call him (not his real name), was homeless last year, and you, our generous donors and supporters, paid for him to stay in a motel for several days while we navigated a permanent solution for him.

At the time we met, he was diagnosed with a respiratory ailment requiring the use of an oxygen machine daily. Peggy and I met with him, helped him move into a motel room (transferred about ten oxygen canisters, clothes, etc.), and provided him food. We prayed with him at his request. His outlook seemed hopeful.

The call last week was from the same man, aged many years and in failing health. Although it had been less than a year since we laid eyes on him, things had apparently spiraled out of his control.

Jimmy receives a minor disability from the VA and Social Security. Not enough to afford rent, utilities, and the rest - you know the drill. So, Jimmy went without some things for a few months to save money and buy a very used camper. Bald tires and the walls are literally held together with duct tape.

Veteran RV Camper at UMC
Jimmy's RV at UMC

Jimmy thought at least he would have a roof over his head with the camper and a place to prepare food. This Screaming Eagle survived for a few months, utilizing gas stations and kind merchants that allowed him to clean up and plug in to charge his oxygen machine. That changed last week.

After returning to his camper following an 80-day hospital stay, Jimmy's camper wouldn't start, and he could not get close enough to an outlet to charge his oxygen. He called us panicked. Jimmy didn't ask for money, food, or for us to put him in a hotel. Jimmy asked if we would let him plug up his oxygen machine for a couple hours to get some "fresh air," as he calls it, and then he would figure out what to do next.

Jimmy has been plugging up at our office at night through an external outlet so he doesn't get in the way - his words, not mine. We check on Jimmy daily, ensuring he has food, has gone to the gym across the street to shower.

His only request is for deep breaths and a strong heart.

He has thanked us many times, even going so far as to say we saved his life because he can breathe. We by no means take credit for that. Yesterday, as Peggy and I were leaving the office for the day, Jimmy was plugging up his oxygen machine and told us he was going back to the hospital; not to worry, we would probably see him in a couple of weeks.

The irony - he didn't want us to worry. Jimmy has spots on his liver and is now down to 30% lung capability. He cannot work and can stand briefly without being winded. He's lost at least 50 pounds since last year and wasn't overweight to begin with.

I attended an American Legion Auxiliary meeting last night where our Chaplain asked if there were any special prayer requests - his name rolled out of my mouth before I could form a thought.

We have done what we can and given the rest to God.

Rest assured, my heart, albeit a little tougher than before, still aches for the Veterans who struggle in civilian life. I pause, and give thanks for deep breaths and a strong heart!

Yes, my heart is fine. How is yours?


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