He is older. I see him standing outside the supermarket. Scruffy beard. Pitiful shoes. He smells like a substance plentiful to barnyards and sheep pens. His clothes are threadbare.

He is asking for food. Not money. Not handouts. Just something to eat. He holds no cardboard signs. He’s not bothering anyone. His name is Sam.

“Can you spare some change?” he asks me.

A cigarette is cupped between his fingers. A heavy backpack sits beside his feet. He’s been asking passersby if they can spare change for a Snickers all day, or maybe a sandwich from the deli. A bottle of water even. No takers.

“Anything at all,” he says. “I’m hungry.”

Most don’t acknowledge him. Most treat him as a non-entity.

“Manager told me not to stand out here,” said the man. “Said I was detracting from business, said she’d call the cops. I would leave, but I’m hungry, man. You do weird things when you’re hungry.”

He’s a veteran. Vietnam. Former Marine. “I was 17 when I went over. I was an athlete. Used to play basketball. I wasn’t always this way, man. I had a wife once.”

I ask what happened to the wife.

“One day she realized she’d married a drunk.”

On cue, a woman walks past the sliding doors of the grocery store, exiting into the parking lot. The woman is dressed in business casual. Fancy pocketbook. She doesn’t even glance at my new friend.

“You stand out here and you’re basically invisible. People won’t even make eye contact. To them, you’re a piece of [bad word]. Maybe I am [same word]. Folks treat stray dogs better than stray people.”

An employee exits the store next. A young woman in her mid-20s. She is unfriendly. Her name tag says manager. She tells the man he needs to keep moving. She says the police have already been called. She is firm with the man. A real hard-butt.

The old man takes his verbal dressing down with a hung head. He understands. He is, after all, a Marine. He knows how a chain of command works. He simply God-blesses her. She tells him to git.

He hoists his backpack. He begins a long walk across the parking lot.

“I used to have a dog,” he says.

The dog went everywhere with him. Slept beside him. Ate every meal with him. The dog was hit by a car last month, up near Huntsville.

“I found my old girl the next morning, on the highway. Nobody should have to find their dog that way.”

I give the man some cash. But sadly, I don’t carry much cash anymore. We live in an age of plastic. I am a product of my times.

We are interrupted when a kid clad in an employee uniform races out of the grocery store. Red apron. Thick eyeglasses.

The boy is carrying a grocery sack. Inside the bag are snacks of all varieties. Beef jerky. Cheese. Snickers bars galore. The kid is maybe 14. He is breathless from jogging.

“I thought I’d missed you,” the boy says. “I thought you’d already left, sir.”

Sam accepts the gift bag. His eyes are rimmed red. “Snickers,” the man says.

The boy shakes the man’s filthy hand. “God bless you,” the kid says.

Semper Fi, says the columnist.


  1. Anne Arthur - January 28, 2023 2:08 pm

    Semper Fi.

    • Cheryl yarborough - January 31, 2023 10:17 pm

      I love your stories! This made me cry.

  2. Renee Welton - January 28, 2023 2:14 pm


  3. Lee Desmond - January 28, 2023 2:30 pm

    I love this so much, Sean. Sadly, there have been times when I’ve been one of the ones who’ve ignored these souls. More recently I’ve tried to be a little more like the 14 year-old—even if it’s just asking what kind of coffee they want from the Starbucks on the corner. Bless you, dear Sean.

  4. oldandblessed - January 28, 2023 2:34 pm

    There are a lot of sams around these days. I see one every morning on my to church. He stands at the off ramp at Roosevelt and I30, holding a card board sign to smll to read. No matter te weather, he stands.

  5. Connie - January 28, 2023 2:44 pm


  6. Pubert Earle Bosemann - January 28, 2023 3:03 pm

    Pone, you’re really throwing me a moral dilemma here. We all run into this situation occasionally, and admittedly, most times I too just turn a blind eye. Where I see it most is along the on ramps at interstates. The problem is that there are so many scammers, or worse, out there that you don’t want to be taken for a sucker. You also don’t want to get robbed or hurt. I was getting gas along the interstate and a middle age couple circled around IN A FAIRLY LATE MODEL SUV and stopped by my car with the window rolled down. A close relative had died up at UAB. They needed gas money to get up there to see the body. It was an emergency! They has me going, but I didn’t bite. I felt like a heel for the rest of the day, until a couple of weeks later I was filling up again and saw the same couple trying this ruse on somebody at the next pump. So maybe I’m not as good a Christian as I ought to be, but the way things are today you do need to use common sense. Having said all that, I’m proud of the kid with the bag of treats. Cause everybody needs a helping hand now and again. Will try to keep an open mind. BTW, my old man was a Marine, so that alone gets the old boy some points im my book. Semper Fi indeed!

    Your friend,


    • Susie - January 29, 2023 7:56 pm

      Pubert, what am I missing?? Why is it you call Sean Pone??

      • Susie - January 29, 2023 7:59 pm

        Pone as in corn pine??

        • Susie - January 29, 2023 8:01 pm

          That was supposed to read cornpone.

  7. Peggy M. Windham - January 28, 2023 4:12 pm

    So sad that our Veterans are treated like yesterday’s trash! God bless this man and I thank him for his service!😢🙏😢

  8. Helen De Prima - January 28, 2023 4:20 pm

    I wish I had a farm where I give poor souls like this food and shelter and plenty of hard work to make them feel valuable again. Handouts from individuals or the government only postpone the inevitable.

  9. Beth L Ohlmann - January 28, 2023 5:08 pm

    Every morning I play a little game called Sean’s writing won’t affect me this time and every morning I lose. I love losing this game though. Love it.

  10. rdo333 - January 28, 2023 5:36 pm

    This veteran and hundred like him need help from our goverment and our communities if they can setup one room buildings for the immigrants why would our society ignore these vetrans who got in this situation trying to forget the Hell called wars thank you Sean for writing about them and showing there is hope for our younger generation . Simpri fi

    • Linda H - January 28, 2023 9:16 pm

      I so totally agree with you. I am ASHAMED that this great country doesn’t put its veterans before illegals. Immigrants are welcome; we’re a country of immigrants … but you don’t just walk in and expect to be handed a golden cup. Veterans made this country the blessing it is. We OWE them everything. EVERYTHING!! Semper Fi, my friend … my late father and uncle were WW2 Marines and I thank them and their fellow Veterans every single day for the blessings I have. God bless you Sean and Mr. Sam!

  11. rdo333 - January 28, 2023 5:47 pm

    Our society needs to care for these veterans no one knows what this Hell called war is until you have been in it.thanks for writing about this and showing us there is hope for our younger generation. Simon fi from a old veteran of 89 1/2 years old .

  12. Sandra Gartman - January 28, 2023 6:12 pm

    I had six brothers, five served, to think they would be treated as such breaks my heart.
    I kept one not too long ago, he was deep in dementia, kept begging me not to send him to
    a nursing home, he was violent but we made it til his heart gave out, he never hurt me or
    anyone but took out his rage on things outside. To watch that person with his mind in so
    much pain really affects a caregiver. But love wins out.

    • Linda H - January 28, 2023 9:17 pm

      God bless you Sandra … God bless you.

  13. Steve Leachman - January 28, 2023 7:49 pm

    Whenever I see the “please help I’m hungry” folks at stoplights and exits, I wonder “why don’t they go to a church?” The answer is most are former mental patients. Doctors who’ve studied the homeless problem confirm this. They’re on the streets because we shut down the mental institutions in the late 60’s and early 70’s. They need professional help in institutional settings. Guilt won’t solve the problem. We need to ignore the “homeless advocates.” They’re only into for themselves, not the homeless. We have to be willing to provide money for institutions. I would prefer spending tax money on mental institutions instead of sending it to universities. Universities today are mostly Socialist/Communist indoctrination centers. Plus universities have multi-million dollar endowments. I’m an alum of a 4 year university and I don’t give them a dollar. They keep asking and I keep saying no. We have to change our priorities but this won’t happen in our lifetime.

    • ssanders20txgmailcom - January 29, 2023 12:38 am

      Steve Leachman, I so agree with your statement. In our country exist mentally ill persons who need protection from others and actually need to be protected from their own horribly wrong choices. Although it’s a small percentage of our population, persons exist who actually need institutional care. These people are now living on the streets..”Homeless advocates” wouldn’t spend a day or a night living like these folks do…State Hospitals, States Schools, and other institutions must exist to house folks who are crippled by mental illness. When the state institutions were shut down by ACLU lawyers, it was said that the “communities were going to provide the needed medical, mental health, and housing that the truly mentally ill needed. Well, we see how well that idea played out. The sad truth is that a small percentage of citizens need to be committed by a Judge to a state facility where they can receive treatment, where their meds are not stolen from the on the street, and where they can be safe: a clean, well-lighted place of safety with psychiatric helpers . But they need to be ‘held’ in the safe places for more than 72 hour ‘evaluations which is currently the situation. I know full well in saying this that I need to add that the State Regulators need to be in place to monitor institutions regarding adequate care, and complete “no nonsense’ approach to protecting inpatients from all manner of abuse.

  14. lynda anderson - January 28, 2023 8:02 pm

    It doesn’t matter what the person asking for help does with whatever money he is given. In my opinion, it’s the heart of the giver that counts. ❤️

  15. Bart - January 28, 2023 10:12 pm

    Find Kindness- it can exist almost everywhere!

  16. mccutchen52 - January 28, 2023 10:26 pm

    There was a manager at a fast food place that told me when someone will work for food she will put them to work. She said she had a man sweep her parking lot for a bucket of chicken. If you wanted to work for your food she would find you something to so.

  17. Karen Snyder - January 29, 2023 12:19 am

    Matthew 25:40. Thank you to that young fellow who found it in his heart to help. And, thank you, Sam, for your service. Prayers for better days. ❤️

  18. sjhl7 - January 29, 2023 12:44 am

    So much sadness in the world … it makes the goodness much more noticeable. Thank you!

  19. Rhonda Wilson - January 29, 2023 12:54 am

    Oh my goodness! Where is our humanity? Goodness? Why have we stripped each other’s dignity only to throw it on the ground, ignoring what is left standing right in front of us? There by the grace of God go I???? God help us all. As the top of the food chain we are failing miserably.

  20. Stacey Edwards - January 29, 2023 1:27 am

    My heart aches💔😔 Thank for giving this man a little time Sean!

  21. Pubert Earle Bozeman - January 30, 2023 4:27 am

    Cause he’s southern through and through, and I have nicknames for everybody that I know (and like!) Plus I’m into military aviation, and it’s s kind of an offbeat Callsign. It ain’t derogatory. He slings some humor, and I like to throw some back. If I didn’t like his stuff, I wouldn’t be writing. BTW Glad to hear from you.

    Your friend,


  22. Max - January 31, 2023 4:03 am

    Here is what we’ve become: Millions are allowed/welcomed into the country illegally. Many are put up in nice hotels in major cities with room service, free cell phones, food, medical care, everything. They have totally trashed the hotels and were asked to leave and go to another facility that had been prepared for them. They refused.

    But a hungry, homeless Veteran, asking only for some food, is treated like a leper and has the cops called on him. Some youngster with a heart helps him and he shoulders his pack and shuffles off down the road.

    That Marine was sent to the jungle to fight for his life and his friends. Because his country called. As a Vietnam vet, I know that but for the Grace of God above, it could be me. May the Lord Bless him today with a caring American who will help him and not judge him.

  23. Pubert Earle Bozemann - January 31, 2023 2:21 pm

    Max. You hit the nail on the head. Thanks for you insight and empathy for this poor veteran. Also agree 100% re open border. They’re going to ruin the country so we can’t take care of anybody. Thanks for your service to the country.

    Semper Fi!


  24. Fritha - February 5, 2023 2:58 am

    Once, an older man came up to me in downtown Atlanta and said he needed money to get to an hiv clinic on the north side. He said $20 would do it. I think maybe he was an angel sent to whack me out of my self pity That afternoon I’d been fired from my job . 50 years old. It was a temporary gig but it still smarted. I didn’t have it so I walked him to an ATM —down a remote hallway at GSU. He stood right next to me while I withdrew the money. I gave it to him and he said “thank you.” If I’d been in a happier place in my head it would not have occurred to me to do that. See why I think he was an angel?


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