This Homeless Veteran Was Honored In Death But Not In Life

We know Deryck Bacon graduated from high school in New Hampshire and then enlisted in the Marines, serving for two years.

We know he died in San Diego in April at age 59.

The 40 intervening years are almost a blank.

Deryck Bacon was like 1,300 other veterans in San Diego, like 40,000 nationwide:

Homeless.

Someone who served in our military, received an honorable discharge, and for one reason or two or 20, ended up on the streets.

In Deryck’s case, he’d received a medical discharge after being diagnosed with schizophrenia.

Somewhere in between his discharge and death he connected with Karen Castro, a single mother of two.  “He took upon himself a woman and two children.  They were halfway grown when he came into our lives,” Karen, now 63, said.  Deryck worked as a cook to support the family.

But “He didn’t want to take his medication and that was the beginning of the end,” Karen said.  That end was on the streets, homeless.  The last time she saw Deryck was 10 months ago.

That night in April, Deryck was sleeping on a sidewalk when a driver jumped the curb, hit him and killed him.

Deryck was the victim of a hit-and-run, but he was also the victim of a broken system that gladly takes young people into its military, and just as gladly disposes of them when their service ends.

There is no doubt that the Department of Veterans Affairs is a broken system, and while no one could force Deryck to take his medication, to me it appears no one from the VA was trying to find Deryck, or discover why he was on the streets, or what the VA could do to help.

Help, after the end, came from strangers.

Karen wanted Deryck buried with military honors, but had no idea who to talk to or how to make it happen.  After learning about Deryck’s death, Michael McConnell, a homeless advocate in the San Diego area, wanted to help.  So did Rex Kern, the director of Miramar National Cemetery, a federal military cemetery in San Diego.

Their assistance included Kern teaming up with KFMB-TV to verify that Deryck qualified for a military burial with honors.  McConnell paid for the casket.  And on August 14, Deryck was buried with full military honors at Miramar.

From April to August, Deryck received more attention from strangers than he received from our government in the 40 years since his discharge.

When will the words “homeless” and “veteran” stop appearing in the same sentence?

Deryck and Karen

Funeral 1

Funeral 2

Funeral 3

 

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