Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Richard and Alan Shapiro

These photographs and text are by Alan Shapiro, a New York photographer whom I greatly admire. What could I possibly add to his writing..? Copied with permission below:
Another day, another vet recounting too many battles and nowhere near enough victories.
I met Richard this morning on my morning walk to my office. He had set up a small oasis and was napping. I was across the street and saw some youths approach him with questionable intent. He woke as I was telling them to leave. He looked at them, sprang to his feet and started a hobbling, slow motion run at them. They laughed and walked away. I stayed.
Richard is 87 years old (last Tuesday was his birthday, which he spent in a New Jersey VA hospital). He served in WWII under Patton (way under Patton...but the pride never left his voice as he talked about their victories). We spoke about his life in the military. His new life in the shelter. And the girls at the Hooters in Times Square who bring him chili and soup late at night after their shifts are over. We talked and talked and I took picture after picture while too many people walked by wondering about the interaction. Not sure whether it was the moments of boisterous laughter or the painful moments of silence as he shared the more tragic parts of his life in short story form while I fought the waves of despair. At one point he asked whether I needed to get to work and I told him this was far more important. I was not lying. 
I am now in my office but quite distracted. By our conversation. By the sad reality that touches me so deeply. And by the positive thought that Richard agreed to have dinner with me this evening. I expect there will be lots more stories. And with his permission, I intend to not let them go unheard.
I have a special place for Veterans. I never served but I do have a profound appreciation for those that have and those that serve to this very day. For me, it's a very special and moving privilege to meet them and listen. I remember hearing a fact at last year's Veteran's Day Celebration that a full one quarter of all US Veterans are homeless at one point in their lives. Perhaps that number has changed in the year but I am not an eternal optimist. 
Don't spare change. Make change.

Thanks, Alan

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