Homeless Vietnam Veteran So Traumatized By War, Can't Remember Unit, Military Terms
TAMPA, FL - Life can be harsh for those living homeless on the nation's city streets. But for one man, it's even worse -- especially when he deals with the emotional scars of battle.
Polls show that 15 percent of the U.S. homeless population have served in the military. Many suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
"It was definitely rough when I came home from the war in 1978," says Richard McAdams, a veteran who served in the Marines during the Vietnam war. "I got off the plane and they were spitting on me and calling me baby-killer."
McAdams says he served in Vietnam from 1969 to 1978, although the war officially ended three years prior.
"Well I don't exactly remember the year," he says, "but I know that it was really hell over there, especially when the Chosin was so freezing cold. My friend Billy actually lost his fingers to frostbite."
McAdams is of course referring to the Chosin Reservoir, the location of the famous 1950 breakout by Marines of the 1st Marine Division during the Korean War, when McAdams was only one year old.
Korea is about 1800 miles away from Vietnam.
"No, no. There's a Chosin in Vietnam," says McAdams, as he stands up from his wheelchair. "Look it up, it's there."
The homeless veteran spends his days weaving between traffic and holding signs with messages like "Marine Served In Vietnam, Now Homeless, Anything Helps" and "Starving Vietnam Vet, God Bless."
McAdams takes a bite into the burrito he just purchased when he's greeted by a fellow veteran in a car stopped at the light.
"Semper Fi, Devil Dog!" says the driver to McAdams as he drops a dollar into his cup. "What unit were you with?"
McAdams is delighted to be recognized by a fellow Marine.
"I was with the 103rd - Operation Urgent Fury. December Five to you too!"
As the light turns green and the driver continues, McAdams turns, flabbergasted.
"Why did that guy call me a dog? That was pretty rude, don't you think?"