A regular fixture each Wednesday at the Catholic Charities St. Maria’s Meals program on G Street, Frank* has been living on the streets for some time. Like many veterans downtown, he prefers to stay on the streets rather than in a shelter.
With the help of his cane he is often seen greeting passersby and in most cases announcing that he is a veteran. At the age of 17, Frank convinced his mother to let him join his older brother enlisting in the army. Taking his mother’s words to watch out for his brother to heart, Frank served multiple tours during the Vietnam War. After being shot for the third time, Frank was sent home for good. Like many, Frank got by doing a little of this or a little of that.
After his military service ended, he moved around quite a bit, and never really found his way. He remains scarred from the many brothers who never made it back from the war. If asked about the Vietnam War Memorial, tears begin to well, and you know it is a place that holds special meaning for him. He is a regular visitor to the memorial, and loves speaking with other veterans.
Each Wednesday evening, you can find Frank, now in his 60s, outside Catholic Charities at 924 G Street. It is here he knows he can get a warm, nutritious meal. A social worker is on-hand to provide him clean clothes, necessary toiletries, and talk with him about his health and connect him with available resources.
A bad leg prevents Frank from waiting in line, but he refuses to have someone deliver his food to him. Instead others will hold a place for him near the front of the line, and as soon as the volunteers begin serving the food Frank takes his place in line. He is one of many who returns to the line for seconds.
The warm meal is a blessing for those who come to St. Maria’s Meals each week, but for so many, like Frank, the fellowship, sense of community, and comradery are the real draw. He has forged valued relationships with Catholic Charities staff, volunteers, and fellow diners. He looks forward to seeing them each week, and they him. He is always ready to share his story, and knows he will find a listening ear and a kind heart at St. Maria’s Meals.
Through his military service, Frank has given so much of himself for our country. He is frequently heard telling those around him “I love you” and “God bless.” His story is just one of thousands we hear each year as we work to serve those in our community most in need. Please help us continue this important work by designating Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Washington for your United Way (#8054) or CFC giving (#83997). To learn more about all of the programs and services offered by Catholic Charities please visit www.CatholicCharitiesDC.org
*name has been changed for privacy.