Monday, December 1, 2008

Don't Tread on Me


Wandering around Ocean Beach and soaking up the California vibe, I stepped back to get a picture of a couple of kids running through traffic wearing wetsuits and carrying surf boards. Then I realized I was about to step on something.  I quickly realized it was actually a someone.

“What are you taking pictures of? Take a picture of the homeless. Tell a story about the homeless”. “Dude, get a picture of the 13’s”. I made a picture and thought of my exit strategy from what might be a difficult situation.  Instead, I ended up in a 15 minute conversation and heard tales of six year hitches in the Navy and Marines with tours of duty in Afghanistan, Iraq and hurricane clean-ups.

Marine vet says “They used to want me when I was willing to go do their shit. Now they don’t want me around and don’t respect me. I used to make $3,600 a month plus hazardous duty pay and now they offer me $242 a month. Who can live on that? I eat out of dumpsters.”

Navy vet says “Dude, you slept in a dumpster last night. They shut me out of VA benefits and I paid into the GI bill. I’ve been this close to papa Bush and I should have did to him what he trained me to do."

“I’ll tell you what, Obama is going to change this shit. I used to hate hippies. I’d beat one up whenever I could, but they were right. They were right man.” Navy vet breaks open a cigarette to re-roll it into two. “Dude, take another picture.”

I walked away wondering if they had the number 13 tattooed on themselves to try to conjure up good fortune or as a black mark symbolizing their horrible lot in life. There's always more to the story... who knows what these guys have really been through.  Either way, I’m glad I didn’t accidentally step on one of them.   It seems like these guys have been stepped on enough.
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