“A Heavenly Basic Training”

Marine Corps Veteran Lance Reese, a Veteran currently housed at St. Francis House under the VA Homeless Veterans Program, served his country from 1969-1971 as a mechanic working on “anything they wanted to drive.” A native of Los Angeles, he enlisted right after High School. During his time in the military, an overdose of LSD left him with recurring flashbacks. Alcohol and drug use to self-medicate and slow the flashbacks followed. “But would I carry a rifle for the United States again? In a heartbeat!”

Mr. Reese continued to work as a mechanic after leaving the Marine Corps. He married and had one son, and he and his family moved to Arkansas. The marriage ended, and Mr. Reese moved out on his own. “I’ve lived all over, from as far north as northern Washington to here. My son lives with his mom in Bryant and has special needs.”

In 1992, Mr. Reese broke his neck and back. “I went from the hospital to a wheelchair to a walker and then a cane and now I’m still fighting. In March, I was living in Washington, homeless, surrounded by people who used, even some of my family. I got tired of seeing them passed out with needles in their arms. I walked until I got to the VA in Spokane. It was about ten degrees, but when I got there, it was completely shut-down because of COVID. They even had guards out front not letting anyone in. That was when my heart drew me back here to be near my son.”

Mr. Reese got to Arkansas in April. He moved into the Compassion Center and said he walked by the Veterans Day Treatment Center multiple times. “But I was dying quick out there. In June, I went in, and they got me into St. Francis House right away. St. Francis House is kind of like being back in basic training, but it’s a heavenly basic training! What a blessing this place is. Nowhere have I ever received such care. I’ve gone from living on the streets to being near my son. I have ninety days clean and sober, and that was thanks to St. Francis House. When I first got here, they did my locker check. I was so messed up that when Mike found a little stash of weed, I asked if I could get it back!” Mr. Reese smiled and laughed at that and then continued,” God sent me back here. I was baptized an Episcopalian, and I remember the statue of St. Francis in the churchyard. When I saw St. Francis, I knew. I’d dabbled in the Twelve Steps before, but never really tried. Now I’ve got a Twenty-Four Hour book on my dresser. I use to sleep with heroin and wake up with meth; now I’m doing something different……I’m going to keep doing something different.”

Mr. Reese plans to move to Benton to be nearer his son when he leaves St. Francis House. “I can live on my Disability and I’ll go to meetings. And I’ll tell any Veteran that needs to hear it ‘Don’t give up. Go get help and you’ll find a way!’ “