You’ve probably heard the military motto ‘no man left behind.’
What you may not know is that veterans are quietly and humbly living out that ideal across Northern Virginia.
The members of five Elks Lodges are taking care of their own—even off the battlefield.
Retired Army Sgt. Wayne Blake is leading the charge at his Elks Lodge in Sterling, Va., helping veterans in need across the D.C. area.
Blake served in Vietnam and learned about a fellow combat veteran, Sgt. Greg Dalton, who served in the Gulf War.
“I love this country and I would give my life for it,” Dalton said.
He was born at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland, the son of an Army Command Sergeant Major. His family lived around the world before settling in Woodbridge, Va.
When Dalton returned from deployments in Kuwait, Korea and Cuba, he became homeless, living on the streets of DC until recently.
“I became an alcoholic,” he told WUSA9. “I drank all my money away. I didn’t think life was worth living anymore. So I was trying to drink myself to death."
Dalton sits in an empty apartment, but he's grateful to have a roof over his head.
He’s one of more the 1,400 homeless veterans for whom the Veterans Affairs Administration has found a place to live.
Five local Elks Lodges have stepped in, using modest Welcome Home Grants, provided Elks Grand Lodge.
“It’s a brotherhood. We all are taking care of each other the best we can,” Blake said.“I can’t give enough out to make them feel better."
The $4,500 grants help them provide furniture and basic household items for veterans who have nothing, like Sgt. Dalton.
In a matter of minutes, a team arrived at his Dumfries apartment and transformed it. He now has a new dresser, couch, chairs, and a kitchen table. He also has his dignity.
“It makes me feel human again. I used to feel like an animal. And now, I don’t. I feel like I can fit back into society,” said Dalton.
It’s amazing what furniture and compassion can do.
HOW YOU CAN HELP:
On Sunday, May 21, 2017, the Loudoun Elks Lodge will host a collection drive at its location in Sterling, Va.
Time: 12:00 p.m. to 5 p.m.
Loudoun Elks Lodge #2406
401 West Holly Ave.
Sterling, Va. 20164
Volunteers will be accepting your donations of new or gently used household items and furniture. However, only NEW mattresses and box springs are accepted.
If you can’t make it, the Elks will be grateful for monetary donations so they can purchase whatever is most needed for our veterans.