Saturday, 11 February 2017 08:24

Homeless veteran, others seeking assistance, come to VA event Featured

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McGee helps a veteran register. McGee helps a veteran register.

As a Marine veteran, Terrance Pack received the Purple Heart for injuries sustained in a bomb blast in Iraq.

As a civilian he is now living on the streets in Wilson County and looking for help.
Pack was one of some 400 veterans who came to the Roanoke Rapids Theatre Friday to find out what assistance was available to them.
Johnny Borunda, a former Marine sergeant major, met Pack by chance outside the theater.
“He’s been living in the bushes of Wilson County, he’s been living on the streets for eight years. He’s homeless and trying to get more benefits. It’s totally unacceptable.”

(The event continues through 2 p.m. today at the theater)

Borunda drove a couple of veterans to the event to help them get assistance.
Homelessness among veterans like Pack is not uncommon, he said. “You’ve got a guy living on the streets, a Marine, a Purple Heart combat wounded veteran. To learn this is heart-breaking.”
Pack came out of the Marines a sergeant, but the injury from the bomb blast , he said, “Messed me up. I wasn’t talking. I forgot I had kids. I tried to get a job, go back to school.”
The effects of the blast, however, impacted his ability to function.
Despite his current circumstances Pack says, “I keep going, I try to go with the flow, try to keep my spirit up.”


Ferguson, behind counter, talks as April Flora fills out a form for her parent.

What Pack saw Friday at the event gave him hope. “It gave me motivation to keep going. I’m somebody who won’t give up. There are soldiers in worse situations than me.”
Borunda helped Pack navigate through the paperwork and stations set up by the Winston-Salem Veterans Affairs Regional Office and a call was placed to an organization  which assists homeless veterans.
Pack really didn’t want to come to the event, he said, but was encouraged to do so. He wants to get himself to a point where he can do like Borunda. “I want to help somebody. I want to make sure the next person gets their stuff situated.”
The event, which continues today, saw veterans come to Roanoke Rapids from Fayetteville, Apex and Raleigh, as well as some from Michigan and Maryland, said Darrick McGee, of AMVETS Post 101, who was assisting with the event.
Mark Bilosz, the regional director of the Department of Veteran Affairs, said turnout was more than he expected. “A lot are filing new claims.”
Bilosz said many of the veterans who came to Roanoke Rapids did so to file claims while others came to see what claims are available to them. “We’re trying to reach out to folks. It’s an opportunity for us to find out and move to the next step.”
Most of the veterans attending Friday were seeking disability claims.
While he could not comment with certainty on whether there will be another event like this, Bilosz did say, “We see the need and will look into doing it. We did one in another part of the state and had around 250 people. This one was advertised well.”
For local veterans assisting in the event, the scenes were gut-wrenching. “To see all these guys asking for help, it weakens my heart to see this,” said Randy Ferguson, state AMVETS commander. “They served their country and have issues that need to be resolved. It’s completely overwhelming to see this. We didn’t expect this many people.”
Dexter Evans, a Navy veteran, drove from Jacksonville. “I just wanted to see what was going on and get a situation fixed.”
Visiting to address his situation became overshadowed by what he observed during the event. “Being here has been eye-opening, to see people from different eras of services, just to see veterans of all ages. It’s an overwhelming sensation. It shows that the VA actually cares.”

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