'Lost in society': Less-fortunate share reasons to give thanks

A mural reproduction of "Christ of the Breadlines," by Fritz Eichenberg (1953), appears outside the front entrance to Our Daily Bread, 616 W. Randolph. (James Neal / Enid News & Eagle)

ENID, Okla. — As families gather today for Thanksgiving, some of Enid's less fortunate are reminding others of reasons to give thanks, even when times are hard.

Some of those in need were waiting Wednesday morning outside Our Daily Bread, the soup kitchen at 616 W. Randolph.

Asked to reflect on what they had for which to be thankful, one man, who asked to be identified only as T, had a simple answer: "I woke up this morning, my friend."

T, a veteran of the Army from 1979 to 1982 re-enlisted in time to fight in Operation Desert Storm, the 1991 coalition war to expel Iraqi forces from Kuwait. He found himself again in uniform, and in the desert, he said, because "I volunteered again, like a dumbass."

Today, T said he's just thankful to be able to stand by other veterans, many of whom have returned from Iraq and Afghanistan worse off than himself.

According to a 2013 U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs study, as many as 4% of all post-9/11 veterans may be homeless within five years after leaving military service.

About 11% of Afghanistan veterans, and 20% of Iraq veterans, suffer from post-traumatic stress, the VA estimates.

Those stresses disproportionately affect veterans who have returned home since the era in which T served.

According to the VA, veterans ages 18-34 have the highest rate of suicide in the nation, and more than 20 U.S. veterans and active service members die by suicide each day.

T said many of the veterans he sees on the street today are "lost in society."

"People don't know what to do with these kids coming back now," T said. "They're the ones I'm worried about."

Despite his own worries, T said he's just thankful to be able to get up, and make it to a meal with his friends.

"I'm able to get up and go, and I'm 60 years old," T said. "Some of the boys who are coming back now don't have that privilege. They're lost. They're lost in their minds."

Sitting nearby, Jason Minter, who also was waiting for a meal, said he's thankful resources like Our Daily Bread exist in Enid to help those who have less than him.

Minter said he comes to Our Daily Bread occasionally, when he's in between work — mostly odd repair jobs and work in the construction field.

While others may have more than him, Minter said he's thankful for what he has.

"People here say I've got it made," Minter said. "I struggle, but I have my own place, and I have a motorcycle to get around on."

Even as he looks for work to pay for things like food and utilities, Minter said he's thankful he even has the ability to work.

"From the time I wake up in the morning until I go to sleep, I want to be able to offer something," Minter said. "I can still offer myself and my experience to whoever out there needs work done."

Across town, on the city's east side, Guyla Church said she was just thankful to be home. She was able to come home briefly from the nursing home to spend a day with her husband.

She said the couple was thankful to be receiving a hot meal from First Baptist Church for the holiday, thanks to the church's community Thanksgiving dinner and delivery service.

But, most of all, Guyla said she's thankful for a gift many people take for granted — family.

She offered thanks for her daughters, Briennan and Amber, and especially Alisha, who is in need of prayer, and her husband, Richard.

"I am just thankful for my kids, and my husband," Guyla said.

For anyone in need of a hot meal and fellowship today, there are several community opportunities.

First Baptist Church, 401 W. Maine, will serve its free community Thanksgiving dinner 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church and Knights of Columbus will have their annual dinner 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Leven Center, 110 N. Madison.

Salvation Army of Enid will have an evening meal at 6 p.m. at 516 N. Independence. For information, call (580) 237-1910.

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Neal is health, military affairs and religion reporter and columnist for the Enid News & Eagle. Follow him on Twitter, @jamesnealwriter, and online at jamesrneal.com.
Have a question about this story? Do you see something we missed? Do you have a story idea for James? Send an email to jneal@enidnews.com.

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