“Most of my family, my heritage, is all people that were in the military,” recounted Jack – one of 100 Homebound Heroes we serve annually at Meals on Wheels San Francisco through the Home Depot Foundation.
“My uncle was a career officer in the military. He came out here from a farm in Oklahoma, riding on the top of a freight train. My Dad was stationed in Panama. My grandfather was a World War I veteran.”
Jack himself was no exception to this family tradition.
As a young man in 1961, Jack was recruited by the 82nd Airborne Division of the U.S. Army as a paratrooper. After 3 years in the Army and a short stint working for TWA Airlines here in San Francisco, Jack went on to work for the Department of Defense (DOD) in Vietnam.
Looking back on his life, Jack knew that he was destined for a job outside of the confines of an office and one that fulfilled his strong belief in serving his country; a value that was passed down through generations in his family. “My job was full of adventure, and I loved doing it.”
He recalls the moment he knew that an office job was not for him. “One day I was going to work at the airport with an Irish buddy of mine. His name was Hurricane, and he says, ‘Well Jack, this is it for you. This is the rest of your life here. You like working for TWA, you get the free flying. This is what you’re going to do until you retire.” And it kind of scared me.”
Growing up, Jack was inspired by his cousin, a pilot on an aircraft carrier and a family hero he likened to Clark Gable. “He had a big mustache, he was the picture of success, the Captain of his football team in high school. He was a hero of the family, a big, good-looking dude. Even though he was this 7th fleet boxing champion, he was a mild-mannered, peaceful guy. ”
Like his uncle, Jack had a natural ability to remain calm during tense situations. He was contracted by the DOD to protect a military base in Saigon and was routinely sent in to de-escalate conflicts on the brink of violence. “The best kind of cop you can be is – you stop stuff, you don’t create stuff.”
Jack takes great pride in his service to our country. And for this reason, he is enormously grateful for the support he receives from Meals on Wheels and the Helping Homebound Heroes program. This program, funded by a nationwide grant through Meals On Wheels America and the Home Depot Foundation, assists senior Veterans with critical home repairs so they can age safely and more comfortably in their homes.
John Sheehan, our Director of Fleet and Facilities, has the added responsibility of connecting senior veterans from Meals on Wheels with the Homebound Heroes program. John is a Veteran himself, and a graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point. Once connected, Jack’s Meals On Wheels social worker, Kristi, wasted no time in getting him the help he needed; a new walk-in closet and a couch to ease his chronic back pain.
For Jack, a person who is not quick to accept help from others, the amount of time and attention this program offered him was moving. He was especially glad to hear that a program like this exists for homebound Veterans around the country. “These people are so nice to me. They have my gratitude, and I feel very honored to have John and Kristi taking care of me.”