600 Homeless Veterans Served with a Smile
By Barry Romo
For the eighth consecutive year, VVAW joined with the VA, other veterans' groups and others to provide two days of food and services for homeless vets.
VVAW runs the kitchen: washing, scraping, cleaning, cursing and providing organization to what could be a chaotic event where different groups volunteer to provide food and cook it for the various meals.
This year was truly a regional event with members and friends coming from St. Louis, Wisconsin, Champaign-Urbana and northern Illinois.
It was a case of every single person being needed and everyone putting in extra effort to get the job done in a hot kitchen on hot July days and serving under a hot sun.
Bill Branson orchestrated the event. In the words of Dave up from St. Louis,"he delegated authority where necessary and took control when needed."
Special mention must be made of Bob from Wisconsin and Janet from St. Louis who cleaned the hot table and stove respectively. And Aaron and Sarah from C-U, who kicked ass scrubbing and rinsing and, along with George, serving. We got out extra early because of their initiative and sweat.
A little story, not about the vets but about a volunteer who didn't serve. I spoke at a local community college about war and stuff. At the end a young woman came up to volunteer for the standdown. She had recently beat cancer and thought she knew something about life and death.
I called her up to give her directions on how to get to the National Guard Armory. She was coughing but she assured me she wasn't ill and would not get the homeless sick, just that she had had bone marrow transplants and had trouble with allergies ever since.
Her car broke on Friday but she borrowed one to come on Saturday.
She came into the kitchen to find me. But the heat both inside and outside with the serving line was too much for her. Her sweat glands weren't working.
Almost in tears about letting VVAW and the homeless down, she could not stop apologizing. She promised to come for the winter standdown and apologized once more.
Of course I thanked her, gave her a long handshake and was inspired by her. Most people try to find ways out of doing things and here she was in tears because her body would not let her help others. I know Christina will make a standdown and I know she gave me my third wind.
Barry Romo is a national coordinator of VVAW and a member of VVAW's Chicago chapter.