A homeless 89-year-old Korean War veteran is set to move into a Del Rio apartment and has a cartful of new home furnishings, thanks to the work of a local organization formed to meet the unmet needs of the area’s armed forces veterans.
FOB Del Rio members James Powell, Celso Barrientos, Adrian Bitela and Chris Villarreal reached out to leaders at the Housing Authority of the City of Del Rio and at Border Federal Credit Union (BFCU) when they learned of the Korean War vet’s plight.
Bitela said the man’s situation struck a particular chord with him.
“He reminds me a lot of my father. My father is 87; this gentleman is 89,” Bitela said.
Bitela said the man, who did not wish to be identified, had been living in Mexico for the past 12 years.
“His health has been deteriorating, so he came over and visited me here at the (county veterans service) office and said, ‘I think I have health care here in America,’ and it should be better than the health care he can afford in Mexico. He asked, ‘Are there any benefits for me in America? I’m an American citizen. I’m a veteran, honorably discharged. If there isn’t anything here for me, let me know, and I will have to go back to Mexico.’ And my immediate reaction was, ‘Let us help you, please,’” Bitela said.
“It definitely hit home with me,” he added.
Powell said the Korean War vet is the third homeless veteran FOB Del Rio has assisted this year.
“We’ve helped one mother with three children, and we’re also helping a single veteran, who’s about 42 years old,” Powell said.
“We use a case management approach. We do all the research, make sure they’re legit, that they are veterans, and then we try to find out what happened, how they got to this place, and we try to figure out a way to get them back on their feet and bring back out the warrior within,” Powell said.
Powell said the group began by working with the Housing Authority, which now has a veterans preference program for housing, to obtain an apartment for the Korean War vet at the Roswell Apartments downtown.
Until the apartment is ready for move-in, Powell said, FOB Del Rio is paying for the veteran to stay at a local motel.
The group also reached out to Abram Rodriguez, marketing manager of Border Federal Credit Union, who came through with most of the items the formerly homeless veteran will need when he moves into his new apartment.
Rodriguez delivered the new items to FOB Del Rio members on Monday.
“I tried to get the kind of things I would get if I was about to move into an apartment,” Rodriguez told the FOB Del Rio members as he presented them with the items on Monday.
“I got some laundry detergent. I bought some glass stuff, but then I thought about his age, so I bought some plastic stuff as well, and then some comforters and sheets, a microwave,” he said.
Rodriguez said FOB Del Rio’s mission dovetails with that of the Border Federal Credit Union.
“For Border Federal Credit Union, this was important, because we’re always letting the community know that we’re here to give back. We are a community credit union, which means that we are owned by our members, owned by the community, and any opportunity we can give back, we just jump at the chance,” Rodriguez said.
He said the donation was even more important because the person being helped is a veteran of the nation’s armed forces.
“We have a long, strong relationship with Laughlin Air Force Base and its members. That is actually where Border Federal Credit Union started, and so we want to give back to the military any chance we get, and somebody like a veteran, especially an 89-year-old veteran, you hate to see anyone like that in a situation like that, but especially someone that’s given up so much for their country, for all of us to be here where we are,” Rodriguez said.
FOB Del Rio is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization still seeking donations to further its work to assist local veterans. Checks may be made out to FOB Del Rio and dropped off with Bitela at the county veterans service office.