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I recently learned that one of my oldest friends had fallen on very hard times. Paul and I were boys together–part of a whole pack of kids who inhabited the neighborhood we called home. There was a pipeline behind the houses across the street that was, for us, the earthworks of an ancient fort, with woods near enough to hide in with our toy guns while we waited to ambush our enemies. To us, this great big land was the entire earth and in it, we were kings and queens; generals and privates; special forces and infantry.

In those days, we were outside more often than not. Being made to stay inside was a terrible reckoning for some awful crime of which we were surely innocent. That is, unless we were testing our boundaries the way we would test the defenses of an opposing army.

In the decades following World War II, playing “army” or “war” was a given. Our parents and/or grandparents had either served in the war or were children while it raged. It was an area of regular discussion around the dinner table. It was infused into every facet of life in those grammar school days, even to the point of being a constant topic in comic books. The current generation might be forgiven for thinking they invented Captain America or The Avengers, or even Ironman, but the people who wrote the comics we read on an almost daily basis beat them to the punch by at least fifty years.

As children, we were those super heroes and villains; the conquering heroes and defeated enemies of wars fought in our imaginations and yards across our vast domain. We would split up into teams and the rules were simple. You got “shot” by someone from the other team and you were “dead” until you counted to a certain number at which point you became a new guy (or girl. Not many girls were soldiers, but Paul’s sisters sometimes were.)

Paul was, by far, the best soldier on any team that was lucky enough to pick him. He could do almost anything and was rarely shot by the other side.

And we were pals. When we weren’t playing army, we were exploring the wild and remote forests of our little world and swimming (or falling into) the streams and rivers that enclosed the kingdom we called home. Sometimes, our escapades were harmless. Other times we were probably lucky to survive; but as a kid, you don’t see it the same way as would a parent. What we shrugged off as a joke would later give us fits when we saw our own children in similar circumstances!

In time, my parents decided to move to another section of town and Paul and I eventually lost touch. His life headed in one direction and mine in another, but I never forgot about him. Every time I thought of those days and the games we played, his face would always find its way in front of my vision.

Flash forward a good twenty years, I came around a corner in a local grocery store and I saw this really big guy built like a Mack Truck in army fatigues standing on line with a basket of stuff. He seemed oddly out of place, but also oddly familiar. When he turned to look out the plate glass windows in the front of the store, I caught his profile and was stunned to find myself looking at my boyhood friend. Here was Paul, after all these years! And he was in the Army!

It’s funny how you can talk to a childhood friend as if you just saw them a few days ago. Decades pass but these people live on in your head, as attached to you as your own arms and legs. We talked for quite a while, filling each other in on the course of our lives. He was actually getting paid for playing Army and we both got a chuckle from that. The service suited him perfectly and he was happy to be part of it.

I didn’t hear of him again until his sister found my personal Facebook page and signed on. Jeannie and I chitchatted a little back and forth about the way things were back when and it was a good way (though limited) to be able to keep a finger on the pulse that was our childhood.

It was in this way I found that Paul was in a really, really tough spot. He had developed congestive heart failure and found himself in an emergency room during the holidays. He was frantic, not knowing whether he was going to live or die and desperate over what would become of his family. His wife is disabled and their son has special needs. Both require ongoing medical attention and Paul, the sole provider for his family, was helplessly staring at the ceiling of an ER.

As a civilian contractor working closely with the Army, training Special Forces, there simply weren’t enough hours in the day to make the money required to retain their home and pay the ever-mounting medical bills for his wife and child. And now this! His heart is only functioning at 10 percent of its capacity.

Jeannie told me how they are now living in a horse barn that doesn’t have the basic services most of us take for granted. A situation born of human frailty and an ill designed support system.

Paul recently underwent surgery to implant a pacemaker to try to regulate his failing heart. If that doesn’t work out, then he will go on the list for a transplant. We’ll know for sure in another month or so, but the doctors feel confident that, due to the severe cardiac damage, he will need a new heart. No one knows how he’s going to pay for it, or what will happen to his wife and son should all measures fail. They are already crippled by medical bills and their current situation.

Paul needs two things: a way to make the only home he can provide for his family into a livable space and help paying medical bills. This is where you can offer support. If you are reading this, you are already better off than they–and the majority of vets–are. Please click the link below and consider donating to the funds we’re trying to raise to defray these costs.

https://www.giveforward.com/fundraiser/rq48/disabled-and-deserving-the-paul-s-family-home-retrofit-fund

Paul has devoted his life to his family and the service of his country. Whatever your politics, this is a family who needs our help.

MAD

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