Deceased Homeless Veterans
Source: Chattanooga Community Kitchen
Howard Glen Baugh served in the U.S. Marines and the Army, but he died homeless in August.
Living outdoor in a tent, the former sergeant spent his final days fighting liver disease from drinking too much, said officials with the Chattanooga Community Kitchen.
Baugh was among a dozen deceased homeless veterans honored Thursday during the kitchen's fall festival, which attracted about 100 people.
Brother Ron Fender, outreach case manager for the Community Kitchen, spoke of the struggles of Baugh and others.
"We expect veterans to come back home. Everybody is joyful and they start a new life, but [some] just can't do it," said Fender. "They can't stop fighting the war."
Veterans account for about 13 percent of the 561 homeless people in the Chattanooga area, according to the Chattanooga Homeless Coalition's 2011 count.
During the event, music played in the kitchen's day center. Adults chatted together while children blew up balloons. Carrot and chocolate cakes sat on tables in back of the room, anticipating a cake walk.
In the back corner of the day center sat the veterans memorial.
White candles burned at each end of a white wicker table centered with red, white and blue flowers. A board trimmed with stars provided a backdrop that displayed the names of dead homeless veterans.
Cadets from Brainerd High School's Junior Army ROTC's program conducted a flag ceremony and Fender prayed.
"Oh, Lord, we often take for granted the ones who most deserve our gratitude," he said. "Bless those who served this country and lived and died in her poverty."
Dean Arnsdorf, a homeless U.S. Marine veteran, saluted retired Army Maj. Wilford Blowe after Blowe led the Brainerd students in the flag ceremony.
"I just want to thank you guys for coming down here. It touched my heart," Arnsdorf said while shaking Blowe's hand.
Arnsdorf, a 52-year-old father of seven who sleeps in a tent, said he served from 1978 to 1984 and recalls events from those days as if they had just happened. He was part of the 1983 invasion of the Caribbean nation of Grenada after a military coup and took part in the rescue of Americans on the island.
"We rescued 15 American hostages out of Grenada. We lost six Navy SEALs and we lost two Marines coming up the backside of the hill," he said. "We raided a castle. We had to kill every one of the terrorists that were holding American hostages."
Fender said every veteran he talks to on the streets is still fighting a war and that more mental health services for veterans are needed.
"They are absolutely scarred," Fender said.
It's been more than 40 years since James Bradley got out of the U.S. Navy in 1966 after serving as a gunman and a cook. Now 75, he sat homeless in the Community Kitchen during Thursday's fall festival.
When asked why he was homeless, he responded, "It's just one of those things, the stress of life."