Stories of war heroes struggling to get by always break my heart. I had the pleasure of meeting army vet Rocky, a wheelchair-bound,homeless veteran who lives on the streets of Tempe, Arizona. I myself have never met someone down on their luck who has the spirit Rocky does. Rocky moved to Phoenix in February of 2003 after serving in the army from’ 84-’94. He was never married and does not have any children, he has made the friends on the streets his family, a village of people who stand together even when the world seems like it falling apart. The way he spoke of life on the streets inspired me; as many people would be angry at the world, he smiles and continues on. I truly believe he is the definition of an optimist. As he sat in his wheelchair feeling stuck, he mentioned to me that many people take advantage of him because of his disability and that he is seen as weak. He told me that the hardest parts of being homeless are being sleep deprived, getting rid of bodily waste, and of course keeping up with food and water. One of my favorite things he said to me was, “Getting money to stay alive is the hardest part, but the lord provide.” He isn’t angry at the world for his inability to get back on his feet as many of us would be, cursing the world for our misfortunes. I know many of us would be doubting our faith if we were in the same situation, I feel as though this shows a huge part of Rocky’s strong-willed character. He mentioned to me that he is always sure to travel in groups, as many robberies have taken place. Following that he mentioned,” I’ve met some of my best friends and bodyguards on these streets”. I love the fact community has been made even when you wouldn’t expect it, showing that no one is truly alone in this world. We spoke of a homeless camp near the downtown area where him and his friend can rest their heads at night and will not be bothered. Rocky mentioned that having access to the light rail has been such a huge blessing, allowing him to get to the VA hospital where he will receive help with finances and housing. He is currently in the process of working out a deal where he could be offered housing rent-free for a month, which would allow him to work on getting back on his feet. Rocky is what I like to call a one-in-a-million, someone you meet and they have a profound effect on you, one very few people can have.
I am grateful to Rocky for him telling me his story, and he has become part of the downtown Tempe atmosphere, being on friendly terms with the police force and the VA office.The laughs and smiles that took place within the interview truly made my day. I hope you take the time to share Rocky’s story.. to show the world that not all homeless people are mentally unstable.
Thank you so much for reading,