I first met Lester eleven months ago as he sat keeping to himself on Venice Blvd. Today, I was fortunate to meet him again sitting in the same spot. He welcomed me with a smile and sincere happiness. “Hey”, he says….”I remember you” and extends his hand. He draws me in with his warm welcome. We sit together and I am hoping to learn more about him, and how he is doing since we last met.
I notice that his speech is not what it was back in January… it is slurred and slowed to a point of hard to understand. Something is different with Lester. I want to know.
I ask him about his health and he tells me that he has been visiting the free clinic in Venice and loves his Dr. and feels that his Dr. is wonderful and caring. He loves her. He tells me that on December 8th, he will get the results to find out about the tumor in his brain. He shows me the scar from surgery he had on his heart. In the same breath he states that he is 65 years old, and that he does not take shit from anyone.”I rode with a motorcycle gang, and I’m well known in this area. I respect you if you’re homeless, I will try to help you but, don’t try to take advantage”. Do you find there is camaraderie out here on the streets I ask? “We have people we associate with and we stick in a group. I cover this area, they cover that area but if they need help, I’ll come from my area to back them up”.
“Most of the people I associate with are all Vietnam Vets” he shares. I ask him about his service and he tells me that he served with the 101st Screaming Eagles. When asked how he feels about how The Veterans are being treated, he replies with “We are being treated very bad”. He feels that there is no hope for change when it come to The VA as his eyes begin to fill up with tears. His chin is quivering.
We hug. I will see him again.