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Neighbor Rallies Veterans' Network to Assist Weare Army Vet

A few months ago, San Diego, California resident Jane Williams and her husband were vacationing in Weare, New Hampshire, on Mount William Pond. The place they rented was near a road that followed the edge of the pond, and on that road was small dilapidated house.

"And there was this cute little elderly man sitting in the window," she says. "And every time we went by the house, I'd always wave, and he would just always reflexively wave."

The man was 73-year-old Army veteran David Holmes. Williams caught up with him one day as she was walking the neighborhood and learned that he'd lived in this house pretty much his whole life. He has no children, never married, and his only brother died years ago. And as they spoke, she noticed that a big hole in his roof.

"I just said, 'I'm concerned about your roof.' And he had an innocent laugh. He just laughed heartily and said, 'Yeah, me too, but I don't have the money to fix it.'"

Williams offered to see what she could do about it, and Holmes accepted. She and her husband committed a couple thousand dollars, hired a handyman. Inside the house they found rotted walls and water damage.

"It was his bedroom where the hole was. And he said, 'When it really rains, I just set my alarm and and I empty buckets.'"

He also slept under a tarp. Jane Williams realized this was going to be way more work than she'd thought. So she set up a GoFundMe page for David Holmes and rallied her family members, some folks in the community, and contacted the VA, which connected her to a veterans network that came to the rescue, with donated building materials, a new mattress, and volunteer labor. Many groups, including the American Legion, the Homeland Heroes Foundation, the Combat Veterans Motorcycle Association, and Easter Seals, contributed.

"I really don't know much about the veterans' association and how much they really have each others' backs. I mean, they take care of each other."

As of today, the GoFundMe page has raised more than $68-hundred dollars of the $10-thousand dollar goal. Williams says the fact that he was a veteran was key to getting so many resources.

"I got a call out of the blue from a guy...and he said 'I have a buddy that owns DeNiro Construction and he asks, 'What do you need? We're veterans. What do you need?'"

This kind of sentiment was common, Williams says. The veteran community is strong and supportive. And David Holmes says the response has been wonderful. Now that people know about his needs, he says they seem to be happy to help.

"A friend of mine just came and offered to buy me a brand new stove. Mine's pretty well had it."

"So it seems like even your friends didn't know the conditions under which you were living," I said.

"Right, well, I don't go out and tell people. You know?"

"Well, why not?

"You don't do that stuff, you know," Holmes said.

But he says it's wonderful that Jane Williams stepped in to help. "I think the whole family's very generous."

And the work is not done, but Holmes says by the grace of a good neighbor and the state's network of veterans, he's able to stay dry when it rains.

Peter Biello is the host of All Things Considered and Writers on a New England Stage at New Hampshire Public Radio. He has served as a producer/announcer/host of Weekend Edition Saturday at Vermont Public Radio and as a reporter/host of Morning Edition at WHQR in Wilmington, North Carolina.
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