Forgotten Fight Oral History Transcript
March 18, 2016
Interviewee’s name: Wilbur Evans (WE)
Interviewer’s name: Kelsey Glander (KG)
Transcribed by: Anita Ely
KG: So, first start off with your name and tell me a little about yourself, where you grew up, what your family was like growing up and where you’re from.
WE: Wilber Evans, I’m from Long Island, NY. I’m the oldest son, I got like 5 sisters, 3 older than myself 2 brothers both are younger than me. I grew up in Long Island NY, a place called Wine Dance. I think I had a very nice childhood.
KG: What was it like having that many siblings?
WE: We always enjoyed ourselves and never needed anybody to play with, somebody was always around. I think my brother next to me was my best friend, other than that I don’t have any. But, we’re alright.
WE: I stay in touch with him. My baby brother is in California right now. He got out of service and stayed on the West Coast. My baby sister she was in the service, right now she’s traveling in her work. She spent 6 months in Alaska this past winter.
WE: And now she is in Hawaii for 6 months.
KG: Cool! When did you join the military and what branch?
WE: I joined in ’70 and I was in the Air Force. I went to Lackland Air Force Base in Texas. From there I went to Clark Air Base in the Philippines. After that I went to Udorn in Thailand and that’s it.
KG: What led to your decision to join the military?
WE: Well, I graduated high school I did not want to carry any more books so my father asked we what was I gonna do cause I wasn’t just gonna sit around the house so I said I joined the Air Force. So off to Texas I went.
KG: What did your family think of you when you decided to join? Were they proud?
WE: They were proud and happy for me and I think they felt better when I got out and came home.
WE: But, overall they were pleased with my decision and later when I got me a good job after I got out working for the VA Hospital, trying to retire from that now. But, ok.
KG: What was your training like? Your training in the Air Force?
WE: Ok, I basic training and then I went to Lowry Air Force Base in Colorado, trained as a weapons mechanic.
WE: Basically load bombs on airplanes. And that didn’t get me anything but people’s telling me you are training now to get a good job when you get out but I couldn’t see myself loading bombs on airplanes after I got out of the service.
KG: What do you remember most about your training?
WE: What do I remember most about my training? Oh, me and a partner of mine we bought a ’58 Chevy, pink and white but the color didn’t matter, we had transportation. We were taking out these 2 girls, they were twins, and they were in the Air Force also. But that was alright, that’s what I remember most.
KG: So tell me a little bit more about your job in the military. What did you do in the Air Force?
WE: Oh, like I said I loaded weapons on airplanes.
KG: Did you pick that? Or was it assigned to you?
WE: Assigned to me.
KG: What did you find most challenging about it?
WE: The most, I don’t think it was very challenging at all.
KG: Yea, ok. Can you tell me about the different places you were stationed? And what were they like?
WE: Well right after Tech School I got orders to go to Minot, North Dakota and I didn’t like that at all cause its cold up there and I don’t like the cold. So another guy who’s the same thing he had orders to go the Philippines and he didn’t like that so we had an opportunity to switch orders and the Air Force said it was alright to do that so he went to Minot, North Dakota, he was from North Dakota, and I went to the Philippines where it was warm. And, Clark Air Base is, was the largest air base at the time in the Air Force. And since then it has been rolled by a volcano and it’s not there anymore, they didn’t rebuild it as far as I know. But it was right, it was alright. What was the question?
KG: Just tell me about the places you were stationed.
WE: Oh, so right after I got to the Philippines I went TDY to Thailand and that’s where I did most of the work that working with the F-4 and it was alright, I enjoyed it.
KG: What was your daily life like there?
WE: Get up in the morning, go to work, then come on back home. People, it’s like you live right on the flight line, and it was alright.
KG: What are some of your most memorable experiences from your time in the military?
WE: Most memorable experiences. Couldn’t be too memorable, I can’t think of anything, right.
KG: No worries.
WE: I enjoyed it, it was alright. I liked working with the aircraft.
KG: Are there things you miss about being in the military?
WE: Naw, not that I miss. When I got out they asked me is there anything we can do to make your transition back to regular more life easier. I said, yeah put me back where you got me from.
KG: So, tell me about coming home and exiting the military. What was that like?
WE: Ok, when I left it was the first time I had really been away from Wine Dance that I could remember and I had to pay somebody to go with me all the way to Texas, somebody was with me, and coming home, I came home by myself. So maybe that coming home, maybe within a year after I came home my mother built a house down here and so I had to move down here so I never really got to go back home in a way, so I don’t know.
KG: Why did you exit the military?
WE: Why? It was a time when they were cutting back and stuff like that and I didn’t enjoy being told to go cut the, go mow lawn and paint a building and stuff like that. You want an early out, yeah I’ll take that.
KG: Did you make a lot of friends while you were in the military?
WE: I don’t think I ever have had a lot of friends. I made acquaintances and some I dealt with more than others but I don’t think I had a lot of friends. Cause a friend is someone that’s with you to the end. Right now I only think I have one friend.
KG: Do you think your military service changed your world view?
WE: My world view? I don’t think so, no.
WE: Because I’ve always had an open mind as far as world views, people are people all over the world. Treat me right and I try and treat you right, so.
KG: When you left the military what did you do? You said you moved down here with your mom and then what?
WE: My mom was building a house up the country so we up and moved everybody here. Everybody that moved, the older kids I think me, Bernard, Gennie, the only child was my baby brother, he’s the youngest, and he moved down with my mother, everybody else was old enough to get out on their own so that’s what we did. And I came down to work at the VA hospital and it’s been nice, I enjoyed that.
KG: What did you do there?
WE: I was an OR, operating room technician.
WE: When you have an operation, the doctor says scalpel I would give scalpel.
KG: Got it, cool.
WE: So I did that for 30 years, trying to retire now. I have a nice time, I had a full life. I don’t think I missed too much of nothing.
KG: That’s good. So how did you become homeless?
WE: Oh, how did I become homeless? I was living in Florida and my brother came down. Said why don’t’ you come back with me, so I did and I was staying with him at the time. My motorcycle got stolen and so I had no way to get back and now he’s saying that you got to do something you can’t stay here permanently so he went up to the VA hospital and gave them my name and they started sending me services from there and one thing lead to another and here I am.
KG: Tell me about the places you’ve stayed since having to leave your brother.
WE: Oh, they’ve been alright. I’ve stayed West Grace, 11 West Grace Street and that’s alright. 507 at the VA hospital; that was alright physically but mentally it was a challenge.
KG: Why do you say that?
WE: Because they wanted to make it like you’re a veteran, yeah we’re gonna help you, but you’re still in the military, everybody still got this military attitude towards you. And it’s not the military anymore, this is my life now. I’m not in the military anymore but they still want to get up in the morning, make up your bed, go to chow, come back home. And even this, I understand that they got to have some kind of discipline here but these are grown men and you don’t tell them you got to be home by 8 o’clock if you ain’t doing something, you got to sign out if you ain’t doing nothing. You know, it’s not the military anymore; I didn’t sign out and sign in when I was in the military.
KG: Yeah. So how did you send up here?
WE: How did I end up here?
KG: At LFS?
WE: I went to William Bird Motel with 507 and I couldn’t pay the rent so social worker said they would try and find me another place, and this is it.
WE: But I like it here.
KG: Yeah. What’s the hardest thing about not having your own home?
WE: The hardest thing about not having my own home? I’m really trying to think of something.
KG: What’s something you miss about…
WE: Not having my own home?
WE: Having, I don’t know.
KG: Ok, that’s fine. What’s your daily life like now, what do you do every day, what’s your routine?
WE: I’m not working so I get up in the morning when I get up, sometimes I don’t get up in the mornings. Really. The only reason I’m up now is they told me to come meet you at 11:30 and I’ve been sitting out there but I usually don’t get up til 12 or 1 o’clock.
WE: And usually the church will bring supper and a couple of night’s they haven’t done that, last couple nights they haven’t done that and I had to make for myself but it’s been
KG: Just hanging out?
WE: Just hanging out, yes.
WE: I get bored a lot.
KG: Yeah, I was about to ask what you do for entertainment?
WE: I get bored a lot.
KG: Yeah, Do you have a person that you talk to everyday or a person that you consider a close friend?
WE: Not here, no.
KG: Somewhere else?
WE: Yeah, a guy I went to high school with
KG: Ok, can you tell me about him?
WE: Tell you about him?
KG: Yeah, about your relationship with him.
WE: He’s a veteran also. He got married about a year, 2 years ago, something like that. He seems to be going alright. We hooked up and went to Colorado maybe 3 years ago.
WE: He seems to be enjoying life. I’m having a heck of a time.
KG: Yeah, can you elaborate on that? What do you mean?
WE: What do I mean?
WE: I go where I want, do what I want, get up when I want, have a heck of a time.
KG: What types of barriers do you feel like homeless veterans face?
WE: Homeless veterans. There’s the stigma where, oh you’re homeless, people look down on you. Ok, you watch television and going into the service, Army, Air Force, Marines, Navy it doesn’t matter, it’s a great thing, but once you get out people look down on you if you’re homeless or they don’t look at you at all. Like you’re there and you’re not there.
KG: Is there a specific instance in your life where you can think of that happening? To you or someone you know?
WE: A specific instance, no.
KG: Ok. What do you think civilians don’t know about the experience of veterans?
WE: I don’t think they know, they don’t understand, they don’t know that war is Hell, it’s a horrible thing. They don’t know the horrors of war. You know what I mean.
KG: Uh huh
WE: And there’s no way I can convince you of what I’ve seen and I’ve dealt with. I can tell you, but you would still not understand.
WE: What it was.
KG: Right. Why do you think veterans in general become homeless?
WE: Why do I think veterans in general become homeless? Because, you have a, you take a baby, you take a baby and you start to raise it and then about time that it’s pushed out of the nest someone is there to catch it and put it back in the nest, in a different nest but in a nest and you put it back in the nest and it never learns to fly. So, but then when you’re finished with it, ok don’t say nest say a cage or whatever, but then when you’re finished with it if you don’t enjoy it anymore you just say ok, just leave the cage open and walk away from it and never come back. The veterans I think are about time they got ready to sprout wings and go out into society, here’s a uniform, that’s the chow hall, and here’s a job. Then after you’re finished with them, ok, go back home, but on your own. Well I’m back on my own, what am I supposed to do. I don’t wear clothes, I wear uniforms. I don’t go to the kitchen to eat; I go to the chow hall. I don’t go to the bedroom, I go to the bunk. And subconsciously there not ready for it. Ok, now an officer, he has college behind him and a career or whatever and he’s, he can handle it better, but NCO if he doesn’t make a career out of the service, stay in the service, I don’t know.
KG: Yeah, well that makes sense.
WE: But I can’t get it together in my head like I want to.
KG: So there’s, are you trying to say that there’s not much of a support system when you leave the military, it doesn’t prepare you well?
WE: Correct. Ok, today is March 16, March 18 you’re out, bye. But what am I supposed to do?
KG: Yeah. How do you feel about charity?
WE: Oh, charity?
KG: When people offer you charity?
WE: Me personally I don’t like it because I don’t know how to accept it. Ok, I know one Christmas I’m walking down Broad Street and a kid got out the car and said here, thank you for your service, and I’m like ok, alright but what he was giving me was a gift. I mean it wasn’t much but he was giving me a gift, and I didn’t know how to accept it. It’s like peoples tend to have problems saying thank you and I’m sorry, I mean like they don’t know how to. It’s the words are free and easy as much as one is (you were laughing, could not hear) and they feel more comfortable saying it then they say thank you and I apologize or something like that, you know what I mean. So it’s easier.
KG: Why do you think that is? Why do you think it’s hard to say?
WE: Because they use it more frequently. Little Wayne, Tupac didn’t say it;
WE: Right. And they don’t hear it that often.
WE: Even as children, you don’t hear your father saying I’m sorry or I apologize that much, you know what I mean, you hear it but it not as
KG: Does, is it full, does it mean anything?
WE: Right, I don’t know.
WE: Like I said I ain’t have enough sense to go to college at the time, I didn’t want to carry any more books. But what are you studying to be?
KG: I want to work
WE: As a social worker? No?
KG: No, I want to work in like fund raising and development for an organization similar to like a non-profit. So similar to LFS and I feel the need to do that because I so in development and fund raising those are the people that make the action of the mission possible. So I would like to help in that department so that the organization can continue to do the valuable work that they’re doing.
WE: You knew what you wanted to say
WE: But it’s hard to put into words
WE: Right, ok
KG: Yep. Do you like to help people?
WE: Do I like to help people?
KG: Yeah, or do you ever feel the need to give back?
WE: Yes, I do feel the need to give back. Do I like to help people? Yes, if I can. I think that’s why I enjoy working at the VA Hospital.
WE: I felt I was helping somebody every day that I went to work.
KG: Why do you feel the need to give back?
WE: Cause that’s what I’m here for.
WE: Yeah, that is my mission in life, to help my fellow man, or whatever. But that’s what I’m here for. I’m not gonna ask you the same question. But
KG: No, that’s ok
WE: Why do you think you’re here?
KG: I feel the same way
WE: Oh what umm,
WE: Ok, I’m not here because I, I, I, I, I, I, I, I, I, I. I’m here because of we. Now if the house is on fire I am gonna run out, I am not going back in there to get nobody else. But if you can hook onto me on my way out we can get out of here because I’m getting out,
WE: You know what I mean?
WE: Follow me and stay with me but I don’t think I’m a hero, no.
KG: Is there anything in your life that you regret that you feel comfortable talking about?
WE: Is there anything in my life that I regret? Naw
WE: I would do it all again.
KG: Good. What are you most proud of?
WE: My children
KG: Yeah, why is that?
WE: They, I think that they were raised right and will carry on my name and I believe they will say they come to my funeral.
KG: Yeah. Do you see them often?
WE: No, not as often as I’d like to.
KG: Where do they live?
WE: My son lives in New York and my daughter lives in Atlanta.
KG: Ok. What are your goals for the future?
WE: I’d like to get me a place to stay, yeah get me a place to stay with hogs and dogs and chickens and cows and sit back and watch the grass grow. That’s about it.
KG: This is kind of an odd question and I’m formulating in my head as I go so bear with me.
WE: Ok, alright.
KG: But, to the average person, regular ole person walking down the street, if they see a homeless person on the side of the road what would you want them to do? Or say?
WE: Alright, what would I want them to do or say?
KG: Someone who’s struggling.
WE: I’m going down the road, come on I’ll give you a hand, let’s go
WE: But I’m not gonna put you in the wagon and pull you down the road and when I get down there I’ll tell somebody you’re up here but I ain’t coming back this way. So I would say give me a hand up not out.
KG: That’s something that a lot of people have talked about in the past few days. What do you think is the difference between a hand up and a hand out?
WE: The difference, ok. Fletcher is trying to get somebody here, give us here, give me here a hand up and the fact that, yeah here’s a place to stay, right now. And a hand out would be ok, you can stay here forever. But I don’t want to stay here forever.
WE: I’ve got places to go and people to see. But right now I can’t do it because my finances are not right and I need a place to stay to get them right.
KG: Right, yep
WE: You know what I mean? But, so he’s saying: come on, we going down the road but I’m not coming back to getcha.
WE: Now if you want to go down the road you can come on and go with me,
WE: And we can make it.
WE: It’s like the, do you watch the story on television, The Walking Dead?
KG: I do not.
WE: No, well ok. Well anyway, these people are together and they all contribute to the whole, and they making it, but if somebody to say I’m going with you but they just dead, dead weight and I got to stay, that’s holding you back, that’s holding me back.
WE: Where if I just leave you I can go on and what did you say your name was?
WE: Kelsey, I left James down there on the side of the road can you send somebody back for him, and maybe you could
WE: But if you can’t you ain’t got time to worry about it neither, right?
WE: But he’s down there just sitting down on the side of the road
KG: Yep, I would agree with that.
WE: Ok, alright so we agree?
KG: Yeah, we do
KG: Is there anything else you would like to share about your experience?
KG: No, ok then that’s all I have for you
WE: Oh, really? Alright