Homeless man says, 'Life is beautiful for me now'

Charles Carey, a writer, poet and veteran has found 'peace of mind'

Charles Carey, a writer, poet and veteran has found 'peace of mind'

September 23, 2009|By ERIN JULIUS

HAGERSTOWN -- "Writers see a little further than other people see," said Charles Carey, who is a writer, a Vietnam veteran, a father, a grandfather and homeless.

Carey, 54, says he can see hardship on people's faces and probably recognizes it because he knows it himself. Now, he finds comfort in writing.

He enlisted in the Army after graduating from high school in Jefferson County, W.Va. In Saigon for eight months in 1974, Carey remembers evacuating people.

"War is not a pleasant thing, but I guess it's a necessary thing for us to be free, for other countries to try to be free," he said.


When you're at war, you and your buddies are a team. Some lose their lives, Carey said.

After he got out of the Army, he studied journalism at Hagerstown Junior College. For a while, he wanted to be a DJ. He trained to do clerical work and was employed by Veterans Affairs as a medical clerk.

But, Carey said, he started struggling with psychological problems, for which he blames the war. He said a lot of his struggles are related to alcoholism. He'd been in and out of VA centers, but hadn't found peace.

"A lot of veterans need longer programs to put it to rest," Carey said.

In 1986, he was a passenger in a car that crashed and he lost a leg below the knee as a result of the accident. His doctors said they didn't know how he survived the accident.

"If there are miracles, I would be one of them," he said.

His country pays Carey back for his service.

"Uncle Sam takes care of me. I don't have to worry about insurance or medicine," he said.

He's been homeless for about a year and a half, Carey said in early September. He's been involved with the Hagerstown Rescue Mission's 13-month residential program for about two months.

Before his stay at the Mission, he was at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Martinsburg, W.Va. Before that, he had a low-income apartment in Charles Town, W.Va.

The Mission's program has finally given him "peace of mind," and staying there "allows me to give everything to God," he said.

Carey says writing is his hobby and his addiction. Since 2005, his work has appeared in every edition of a magazine of Veterans' Voices, a Kansas-based organization that features writings by veterans.

A lot of what he writes comes from meeting people on the streets.

He sees the homeless.

"The expression on their faces is without joy, without laughter," he said.

Carey gives all credit for his transformation to the Mission, he said. Some day, he said, he wants to write a book about what he's learned there.

"Life is beautiful for me now," he said.

"Tragedies of War II"

By Charles L. Carey,

as appeared in Veterans' Voices, spring 2009

Veterans' Voices --

As the waves clash against our hurried


Unforeseen danger lies up ahead,

Two men dead.

Bodies lie dormant and stiff but

Yet afloat.

Weary eyes so quiet, one sniper


Another man down.

Suddenly one quick rush as our

Boats come to shore.

Four men down as we rush through

The open door,

Like a scary mystery or one haunted


That becomes our

Daily drum.

As we fight through the lines and

Fight together as one,

As flares of light flash through the

Darkened night, each weary soul

Echoes our troubled plight.

Though tears run rampant to the

Early morning dew,

We are the proud, the many and the


Born of honor, pride and the

Freedom to live as free

Women and men,

Through hardships of war and an

Oathful deed that stands

Clear, done are so many against a

A bitter wind.

Through many days and horrible nights,

Through many painful moments and

Through battles that somehow

Will never be won,

Through hardened victories that bit

Our inner souls.

Through blood-trodden hill and

Time-tested wills,

Beyond everlasting reprieve,

Through secrets that do unfold

Beneath daunted memories that

Run so torrent and still,

We are the few, the proud and the real.

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