Summer in Florida is reliably two things: hot and muggy. This July morning is no exception. Clint has been waiting outside the Joshua’s Heart headquarters for about an hour now, and his mane of greying copper-brown hair is starting to frizz in the humidity. It’s kept in check by a ball cap, which doubles as a source of shade.
Clint looks like he’s used to spending time outside. His skin is tan and weathered, his light Hawaiian shirt undone to the third button. It’s just low enough for you to see the dog tag hanging from his neck – a memento from another time, another life.
“I’m a Vietnam Marine, honorably discharged,” Clint says proudly, adding, “Oorah!”
After his time in the Marines, Clint worked a stint as a police officer before moving to Miami in 2021. While the pandemic was raging, Clint was also dealing with a divorce and supporting a son with mental health issues. Despite it all, he was keeping his head above water. Then, that August, he was cut from his job.
“I’ve had a hard time,” he admits. “I’ve been appealing to unemployment, to try to (explain) that I can’t -- I just can’t seem to be around people. They’re not lending me an ear at all.”
Like an estimated 30% of Vietnam veterans, Clint is living with PTSD.
“The wounds I have from the Marine Corps are not so much physical, but here,” he says, tapping his temple.
In addition to family problems and the stress of a pandemic, Clint has had to contend with rising food costs and inflation. He’s also politically aware and makes an effort to keep up with national and international news – fine in practice, but recent events have also aggravated his PTSD.
“My grandparents on my maternal side hail from Ukraine, so I’m half Ukrainian,” he says.
He’s conflicted about the aid efforts going there. Although he’s sympathetic to the plight of his familial homeland, “It’s getting lean (here). And I can understand, with the special operation in Ukraine, you know?”
After unemployment ran out, Clint relied on social security to feed himself and keep the lights on in his trailer home. But as prices continued to climb month after month, that lone resource stretched increasingly thin.
“I had to put my feelers out to supplement my food,” he says. “I found out about Joshua’s Heart from other people in my trailer park, other people that are on fixed incomes.”
Joshua’s Heart is one of Feed the Children’s long-time community partners. The organization, located in Miami, has weekly distribution events to provide food and hygiene items for anyone who needs them. Clint has been coming here for about a year and a half, supplementing the food he’s able to afford with donated meat, milk, and other fresh as well as nonperishable foods.
It’s now noon, and the doors of Joshua’s Heart are opening. Volunteers carrying boxes filled with supplies and food begin to emerge for today’s distribution. Clint’s weathered face breaks into a smile.
“God bless ‘em, God bless ‘em. People who donate to Joshua’s Heart, God bless you. Doesn’t matter if you’re Democrat, Republican, Independent; we’re all in this together, and the idea is peace. Peace.”
He pauses, reflecting.
“You know, war is hell.” The dog tag glints on his neck. “I believe that hate wins wars, but love – love picks up the pieces. It’s time to pick up the pieces, because we’re all broken.”