Thursday, March 17, 2016

Steve Campos - One Veteran at a Time

Steve Campos, a Veteran from Cottage Grove, retired as a Chief Master Sergeant with 35 combined years of service in the Air Force and the Minnesota Air National Guard. He continues serving Minnesota Veterans through his active involvement in the Beyond the Yellow Ribbon Network. He remains active in the Minnesota National Guard Youth Camp, organizes segments honoring Veterans at St. Paul Saints games, participates in United States Postal Service Veteran recognition programs, assists with sending hundreds of items to deployed service members each year, and presents WWII heroes at speaking engagements. Steve is a 2015 Veterans’ Voices Awardee.

Today I would like to talk about Veterans, and especially providing help to Veterans.  There are many, many entities that are out there helping Veterans with all types of resource needs. Many of us are part of organizations that help people, including other Veterans. Helping as a group is easier, but providing help as an individual can be as hard as it is rewarding. I would like to share a powerful story about helping one Veteran at a time and how it can impact both the person helping and the person being helped. It demonstrates what the humanities are all about.

Some time ago, a friend called me to see if I could meet with a Vietnam Veteran who had some pretty dire needs. He lived in an older home that didn’t have any running water--in fact, no running water for almost a year. He was very distrustful of “The Man” as he put it and, at age 72, had a very hard life. He also was a hoarder who had accumulated so much ‘stuff’ that he created a serious problem on his property--so serious that the city was at the point of taking action against him. His small furnace was so rusty I was worried that he would be sickened by carbon dioxide in his home during the winter months. I met with him twice over coffee and rolls and slowly gained his trust. 

To make a long story short, with the help of others, we had his yard cleaned up and came up with a solution for installing city water to replace his broken well. Once these projects were in process, he seemed like a new person; he appeared as if he was on a mission and couldn’t wait to keep moving forward – all because of the help of one person and others who pitched in on the property clean-up. Even though this Veteran passed away that summer, it was obvious that he was happy toward the end, and those of us who helped him felt rewarded, knowing we helped improve both his living situation and his emotional well-being.

At some point, you too, might be faced with an opportunity that will require a big time commitment to help one person. Just remember, life is full of service opportunities. Sometimes we’re called to serve our country, sometimes we’re called to serve our community, and still other times we are called to serve a single person, connecting in our shared humanity, to let them know they aren’t alone.

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