Former Green Beret Paul Henderson received a Purple Heart for his service in Vietnam.
Traveling to Vietnam in 1964, Henderson returned to the United States and remembers being met by protesters at the airport. He said someone spit in his face, and he “climbed the fence.”
“I was trained in special forces that I could whip 15 Marines,” Henderson said. “So I climbed the fence and whipped three of them.”
Henderson was fined $250 for defending himself.
“Cost me a month’s pay,” Henderson said.
In 2017, nearly five decades after he returned from Vietnam, Henderson was surviving on $800 each month from Social Security.
“I got mad,” said Ben Shute, when learning of his friend’s financial hardships.
So Shute, also a veteran, contacted fellow 631st Brigade [out of Grenada] Guardsman Bernard Evans, a staffer for Congressman Trent Kelly. Evans hooked Shute up with Barry Parker, the veterans’ liaison at Senator Roger Wicker’s office.
“Three days later, Barry was in Carroll County and helped Paul,” Shute said.
That help was a catalysis for something bigger, Shute said. From that visit, two other Carroll County veterans were found living below the poverty level. Both are disabled, and both are living without heat in their homes.
Word soon spread, and other veterans wanted to lend a hand to those veterans in need, and an organization was formed, Veterans Helping Veterans.
Currently in its infancy, Veterans Helping Veterans is looking to identify other Carroll County and surrounding veterans who would like to help, need help, or just may seek a little comradery enjoyed as a former soldier.
Most importantly, many involved in the formation of Veterans Helping Veterans understand the benefits red tape at the Veterans Affairs Administration and are willing to help others through the process of receiving their due benefits.
“A lot of veterans are unaware of benefits,” said Michael O’Neal, a Vietnam veteran helping organize Veterans Helping Veterans.
O’Neal said at first, he did not know how to traverse through the federal red tape because the military and Veterans Affairs do not cross records.
“I had to prove I was in Vietnam,” O’Neal said. “It is an ongoing process, and some folks don’t want to deal with it.”
That is what Veterans Helping Veterans hopes to do first – educate veterans on benefits and how to claim them.
“Veterans will talk to veterans,” said Johnny Marlow, a veteran and Veterans Helping Veterans organizer. “This organization is about fighting that battle for them. That is the whole foundation of this.”
Albert Lott’s twin brother served 13 years as a Reservist for the Army. However, Lott said he isn’t considered a veteran.
“We are not going to let that person be left behind,” Marlow said. “We are entitled to it. The only way we are going to get that entitlement is to organize.”
So far, a board of directors has been formed – Michael O’Neal, Albert Lott, Fabian Moore, Ray Nash, Jimmy Tullos, Alonzo Lewis, Dwight Randall, Carolyn Randall, and Johnny Marlow. Moore was named chair, Dwight Randall was named treasurer, and Carolyn Randall was named secretary.
As the group builds itself from the grassroots level, monthly meetings are held the second Tuesday of each month at the Carrollton Courthouse. Also, efforts are in the works to gain 501(c)3 status for the organization and raise funds for different things, like acquire handicapped transportation capabilities for disabled veterans to get to the Mississippi Veterans Hospital in Jackson. Also, in other situations where veterans are living in homes in need of repair or without heat, cooling, and running water, the group can make repairs or purchase items needed for a veteran and his family.
“We took care of each other on the battle field, and we are still taking care of each other,” Marlow said. “It is no different.”
Beat 4 Supervisor Claude Fluker is also helping the group on the county level.
“We need a fulltime [veterans service officer] in Carroll County,” Fluker said. “We are going to try to find the money.”
Currently, Carroll County’s veterans service officer works two days per week – one day in Carrollton and one day in Vaiden. Fluker said with the number of veterans in Carroll County, a fulltime officer is needed.
For more information, call Dwight Randall at 662-455-2805. To make a donation, send checks to 84 County Road 303, Greenwood, MS 38930.