Vet gets fresh start

By Bill Rautenstrauch, for The Observer June 16, 2014 09:50 am

 

Vietnam veteran Donald Remick found out not long ago that if a man ends up broke and stranded somewhere, he could do a lot worse than La Grande.

Last November, Remick was on his way from Colorado to Portland, where he planned to look for a new job and start a new life. He was excited about it.

“I was looking to start a new page. I’d spent about six months researching Oregon, and I knew it was where I wanted to be,” he said. 

But along the way, near Ontario on the Idaho-Oregon border, he had a flat tire. Things went from good, to bad, to worse.

He changed the flat and continued west on Interstate 84. Near Baker City he discovered he’d lost his wallet, probably while fixing the car. With the wallet went all his identification, and all his money.

“I had been paying for my medications, so this was a big problem. I drove along trying to figure out what to do, go back or go forward. Going forward seemed to make more sense,” he said. He said he didn’t have much hope that he’d ever get his wallet back.

Remick’s health problems include heart trouble and also respiratory illness he said is caused by exposure to Agent Orange in Vietnam. When he got off the freeway in La Grande, he followed signs to the Department of Veterans Affair Community Based Outpatient Clinic.

There he told his story. The clinic took care of his immediate medical needs, and phoned Byron Whipple, Union County’s veteran service officer who at that time was focusing some of his efforts on the problem of homeless veterans.

“The clinic calls me up and says we have a vet in need,” Whipple said. “We had the resources to help, the American Legion military support fund, the VFW food bank, and certain benevolent veterans who provided cards that got him meals and transportation. When I got the call, the whole organization was there. We planned for him to weather the storm until we figured out the next step.”