Veterans From Crime-Ridden Areas

Veterans From Crime-Ridden Areas
Chalk outline complete with weapon & blood

This is the city much like the cities where a lot of Veterans come from including me. Walk back with me to a time when thousands of Americans were getting killed in Vietnam. Troops were injured and died in Vietnam fighting a known enemy while poverty and drugs were causing death and destruction in my city. Drug wars, money, power and poverty consumed our everyday life. As a young boy, I heard about the drug problem but I didn’t think a whole lot about it. I thought drugs only made us feel good and to be perfectly honest, it looked like fun.

The only people affected was a group known as Hippies at the time, or so I thought. The Hippies looked like the cool kids. They were just a few easy going, peace loving individuals who just wanted to do their own thing. They just wanted to be left alone to enjoy their right to get high and not have wars. They wore bright pink, yellow, green and blue multi colored outfits called Tie Dye.

They often displayed protest signs advocating peace and love on one day while blaming veterans for the worlds problems on most other days. Volkswagen vans and the Volkswagen Beetle also known as the Volkswagen Bug were symbols of the movement. The vans were often their home on wheels with tents, mattresses and bean bag chairs. It was a lifestyle associated with hanging out at the beach, in communes and concerts where anything and everything goes. Drug usage, alcohol consumption and what was referred to as “free love” was the standard. 


Free love separated sex from marriage, commitment or any other responsibilities. Public displays of affection without limits was the general theme. The free love movement advocated that having intercourse with anybody was totally natural and pure. Privacy was not longer required so making love in public was also acceptable. Working on a job or owning a business was considered unnecessary. Anybody wearing a business suit was considered part of the “establishment.”


In My Neighborhood: 

Meanwhile, in the neighborhoods where I lived, the lifestyle was totally different. The Hippie life looked like it was the way to go, if you could swing it. The swinging part was never actually explained. How did they make a living? Were they just rich kids who’s parents gave them money? Where did they get gas money for the Volkswagen, food to eat or money for drugs? What I saw outside my door were police cars passing by, helicopters overhead and shootings.

Nightly television news reports of crime, killings and my neighbors were seen going to jail.


One day while walking home from school with a friend, we were stopped by some guys in a 1963 Chevy Impala. There were four guys riding in the car. The guy seated on the front passenger side and the another guy in back pointed guns at us. They demanded that I give them my leather jacket. Can you imagine being held up for a stupid jacket? If the same thing happened to me today, I would probably make a different decision but in that moment, I refused to give up my leather jacket.


The guy in the front seat cocked his revolver and threatened to kill us if I didn’t give him the jacket. After I refused again, he told my friend to leave. To my surprise, the person I thought was a friend walked away and left me standing alone. I considered my options in that moment but I knew I couldn’t outrun a bullet or the car they were driving so I stood my ground. After what seemed like an eternity, they put their guns away and told me to get lost.


I calmly walked away (also known as pimping) trying not to show fear but I really wanted to run like hellIn the days and weeks that followed, what angered me as much about the attempted robbery was the lack of action on the part of this “friend” I was with that day. He didn’t seek the help of anybody at my house, our neighbors or to my knowledge initiate a call to the police. What he did do is leave me high and dry and appeared to never look back.


What Do We Do Next?:

High school is coming to and end and college isn’t even considered as an option. My family didn’t have the money for college and my grades weren’t good enough for a scholarship. Full disclosure though, I need to be real about this. I never cared about getting better grades since survival and girls came first and second in my mind. Age 18 is the cutoff so sink or swim, decisions have to be made. Many people in my neighborhood didn’t live long enough to see 21. Like many kids in the hood, I was raised by relatives. No mom or dad and it was time to earn my own keep.


Working at Jack in the Box wouldn’t cover my expenses and committing crimes wasn’t for me. Starting some sort of business wasn’t on my radar at that time either. There’s usually only one other option and joining the military seemed to fill that option. Next to the local stores in the little strip malls, you’ll see the recruiters. Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps offices are usually there. That’s where you go when you’ve got no place else to go. The military is the lifeline for people like me who came from the crime areas. If we didn’t do this, what should we do?