God & Country
Leroy was born and raised on the Northside of Chicago until 1972 when he moved into a small 2 bedroom/1 bathroom home on Chicago’s Southside. There, he lived with his mom, dad, brother, and older sister. Shortly after moving into his new home, Leroy enlisted into the military, where he served in the army as an “11 C Charlie.” During that time, Leroy was responsible for carrying out scout missions to spot enemy troops and gun locations, relaying battle orders through signal equipment, and employing fellow soldiers and weapons in offensive and defensive ground combat.
As a young man, Leroy admits that “[he] woke up everyday not knowing if he was going to live or die.” And overtime, Leroy began to see his uncertainty take a toll on his mental health. Describing his time in the Vietnam War, Leroy mentions “You know when I was there, I ate grass and berries just to stay alive, that’s why I don’t like salad today. People always assume I am joking when I say that salads taste like grass.”
However, this would prove to be the least of Leroy’s problems.
“One morning”, he recalls, “I was working the machine gun and my partner said that we needed more ammo. I told him that we were fine and that he should leave the ammo alone. But before I could finish, he stood up and ran to grab more. Before he could make it back to our position, he was hit with a motor round. All I could do was watch as he fell to the ground...you know, that’s the first time I ever tasted blood and guts...yeah.”
He goes on to state, “Looking back, I’m sure I’ve killed women, children, men who were doctors and lawyers...it’s just not natural, you know…”
When Leroy completed his term of service, he found his mental state fragile and resources limited. He says, “When I came home, by the grace of God, my mom, sister, brother, they got me through. At that time, I was denied food stamps and I remember I would sit in the basement, when I came home, talking Vietnamese. My mom would think that I had someone else in the basement. And I used to sit in the dark corners. Whenever I would hear planes, I used to duck...you know sometimes, I would even hit the deck, so yeah it was kind of rough coming back.”
Though Leroy was regarded as a war hero, he hardly found anything glorious or heroic about his frequent nightmares and flashbacks. As he mentions, “freedom is a wonderful thing, but it isn’t free at all. In fact, it costs gravely, and people pay the price with their lives. And even for the “lucky ones” like me who survive, we pay for it with our mental and physical health.”
After being inquired as to why people may go into the military, Leroy takes a moment of brief reflection and careful consideration. The following moment, he utters…” because, God & Country….that’s what I believe in….my God and my country. My family ingrained me with these values and so it only felt right to fight for them.” He proceeds to say, “Thankfully, it was by the grace of God and my family, that I was able to survive, and even after, its because of them that I didn’t have to be admitted into a mental institution.”
Today, Leroy continues to honor God and his family as the true heros of his life. By moving into Villa Guadalupe Senior apartments, Leroy is able to stay connected to the heroes of his life through Sunday inspirational services in Villa Guadalupe’s community room and various outings with his sister who lives in the neighborhood. Overall he mentions that he feels truly blessed to be surrounded by such love and thankful to have found an additional support system in Villa Guadalupe’s staff and volunteers.
Unfortunately, this is not the case for many veterans who continue to struggle with PTSD after their service for our country. If you know someone who has served our great nation, please take the time to show your appreciation for their service, you never know what your support may mean to them. And if you would like to show your support for our senior veterans at Villa Guadalupe Senior Services, please visit http://bit.ly/1QiJCWW and donate! Every donation collected through Villa Guadalupe’s sister agency, Claretian Associates, within the month of September will go toward providing our veterans with the continued support they need to remain happy and healthy!