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‘Tis Better To Give

The Good Book says that it is more blessed to give than receive and, the plurality of American voters notwithstanding, I agree. This year, Dad and I are doing something a little different. A long time friend of mine, and Ricochet member Liz Wirth, manages a motel down in Titusville, Florida.  Each year, the motel coordinates with Mr. George Taylor, President of the National Veterans Homeless Support organization, to provide a room, hot meals, entertainment, gifts, and friendship to area homeless veterans. This year, Liz had some help, since my son Benjamin and his fiancee, Peggy, just relocated to the Orlando area.  

So with the opportunity to visit with Benjamin and Peggy, and take the Ride of Pride to an event honoring our veterans, how could Dad and I say no? Christmas Eve, we pulled the rig into the parking lot. Since we are under a load, space had been set aside for the truck and trailer. Vets came out into the parking lot. They gathered on the balcony. They stood up from their Harleys.  Cameras were aimed at the truck. And when we shut down the engine and climbed down from the cab, they applauded. It did our hearts good to see the faces of men and women who served, and who live a hard life today, light up at the sight of a show truck that was shined to perfection in their honor.  

2012-12-25-11.26.08.jpgThe rest of the evening was spent visiting with these remarkable people, trading stories, answering questions, and just listening to their stories. At sunset, Santa Claus arrived on a Harley, and then dinner was served.   Soon, one gentleman took his harmonica and serenaded everyone in the parking lot (and beyond) with a rendition of Proud Mary that was unique in both its feeling and application. Soon, some karaoke equipment was set up in the lobby, and with the help of the DJs, veterans began singing their hearts out. What they lacked in musicality, they made up in sheer enthusiasm and happiness.  

Many of these people live in the woods, in much the sort of conditions they became accustomed to while on active duty. Some that were here last year are no longer with us. And even as many of them wrestle with their own demons, they were, to a person, kind, courteous, and appreciative of the efforts made on their behalf. They’ve seen more than their share of tragedy, combat, and hardship, yet there they were on this Christmas morning picking up cigarette butts, helping Liz empty the trash, cleaning the place up, helping those that had helped them.  

Today, while Dad and I spent the afternoon with Benjamin and Peggy, these vets enjoyed hot meals and fellowship with each other. This evening, as I write these words, the guys are engaged in a karaoke contest. We’ve heard an asthmatic harmonica, and people who can’t quite hit the high musical notes but who know how to reach the highest heart strings.

2012-12-24-19.15.54.jpgSpeaking to the guys tonight before the singing commenced, Liz addressed these noble, homeless veterans and said, “So many have so much and they still aren’t happy with it,…  these people who look down on you can’t imagine what they could learn by looking up to you. Your circumstances do not define who you are. Only your heart does.”  

For Dad and I, this has been an extraordinary treat. We spent Christmas in the company of heroes, and while we are grateful to have contributed in some measure to their Christmas this year, it is we who have been given the gift of spending this special day with these very special people. What a wonderful way to spend Christmas.  

  1. Jimmy Carter

    …people who can’t quite hit the high musical notes, but who know how to reach the highest heart strings

    Absolutely poetic.

  2. Benjamin Carter

    It has been a blessing to be here. Watching them see the truck and respond so emotionally to it. Wow. To give back feels great, but to give back along side you and Papa is so very rewarding. Thank you for putting here, what I’ve been feeling all day.

  3. Trink

    A final gift at the end of a long Christmas season.

    Dave . . I really didn’t know that there were veterans who lived like this . .  existing in a time warp, reliving their psychic wounds in Florida forest.

    Bless you and those who have not forgotten them,  who bring their stories into the light, and continue to honor their  on-going sacrifice.

    Merry Christmas to you and your family and warm wishes for all good things in the New Year.

  4. Ansonia

    Dave, Your post, I’m ashamed to say, reminds me I’m very late sending in a pledge to an organization that claims to help veterans. I was just rooting in the papers and mail we shoved aside before Christmas. I found the info, and will now make out the check for the amount pledged, and then some to make up for being late. I’ll do that regardless of what you tell me, but here’s my question : what organization or organizations do you think most effectively help the veterans you saw at Christmas ?

  5. Ansonia

    Re: # 4Never mind. I just used my eyes. Obviously : National Veterans Homeless Support.

  6. Mike LaRoche

    Excellent post, Dave.  Your account of the homeless veterans and their plight  reminded of this verse from “It Came Upon a Midnight Clear”:

    And ye, beneath life’s crushing load,

    Whose forms are bending low,

    Who toil along the climbing way

    With painful steps and slow,

    Look now! for glad and golden hours

    come swiftly on the wing.

    O rest beside the weary road,

    And hear the angels sing!

    Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night.

  7. Liz Wirth
    Dave, I can never thank you enough for what you brought to this year’s event.  This is our fourth year hosting these guys and tomorrow will, as is every year, the toughest day for me.  Watching them get picked up and returned to their camps throughout our county.  Not enough can be said for these guys who have some of the biggest hearts I’ve ever seen and don’t realize when they repeatedly thank George, his volunteers and us here at the hotel that it is all of us who gain so much by having them here.  Yes I’m crying again (don’t call me a whiney little girl again!) as I’m writing this but I can’t really imagine spending these 3 wonderful days during the holidays any other way.  The support you and Schnieder provided by bringing that spectacular truck here moved so many people this year.  I can never thank you, your Dad, Ben and Peggy enough and thank you for allowing me to share this Christmas with your family too.  32 years is way too long between visits…I’ll expect you and the truck again next Christmas!  
  8. Liz Wirth
    Benjamin Carter: It has been a blessing to be here. Watching them see the truck and respond so emotionally to it. Wow. To give back feels great, but to give back along side you and Papa is so very rewarding. Thank you for putting here, what I’ve been feeling all day. · 3 hours ago

    Thanks so much to you and Peggy.  You are the bait now that I hope brings your Dad here more often!  Your help and support was very much appreciated.

  9. Robert E. Lee

    I wish I could have been there.

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