His easy smile masks his financial and health-related hardships. Once homeless, he now shares a house with six other people, two of whom are also Vietnam vets. But the house has no electricity.
“We have water now, but that’s about all we have,” says Clarence, 68, between bites of apple pie. When Clarence runs out of money toward the end of the month, FOOD for Lane County’s Dining Room provides a comfortable and safe place to eat.
“It’s a very nice place,” says Clarence, sporting a baja hoodie and Vietnam veteran baseball cap. “They got good food and very good service. They always have a happy smile and good conversation. This place feeds a lot of people that would otherwise go without a meal completely.”
Chronic Obstruction Pulmonary Disease (COPD) makes it difficult for Clarence to breathe. He pauses, coughing to clear his throat. He removes his baseball cap, revealing a thick head of white and silver hair swept across his forehead. He proudly shows off the military ribbons on his hat. “This one is for National Defense, and this is a Good Conduct Medal.”
Clarence is living with the effects of war, having lost 70% of his hearing from firing heavy artillery in Viet Nam. He served nine years in the Army, but his VA benefits do not give him enough assistance to live on. He perks up when he reflects on his military experience. He speaks rapidly — defying his COPD — and describes his first tour: “I fired heavy artillery 16 hours a day, seven days a week. I lost most of my hearing because of the big guns.”