Veterans, police in Gardner collaborate to help homeless soldier, 76, living in van

GARDNER, Kan. -- America's military heroes have come to the nation's aid many times.

However, one retired military member from the metro needed help in his own right. That's when one Johnson County community stepped up to help a soldier who was living on the streets.

He defended the world`s freedoms in Vietnam. On Wednesday, police in Gardner said they found Dennis Patrick, 76, living in his van.

Patrick said he has roots in Overland Park, and he`d planned to move into a new apartment development in Gardner, which are meant for former military members.

However, Patrick said when he left his homeless shelter two weeks ago with a van filled with appliances for his apartment, he found his new home wasn't ready. On Thursday, bulldozers and construction materials were still on the property.

"There's nowhere else to go," Patrick told FOX4 News on July 4th.

Patrick, who said he'd served five years in the U.S. Army, including four where he was stationed in Germany, said he'd been living in that van for 14 days. Gardner Police officers said Patrick has a clean arrest record, but he said he's not sure where life's road was taking him.

"There's a good chance I would have been back into my bad habit of taking advantage of other people and the help they can give me without them really wanting to. It's been with me for awhile," Patrick said.

Gardner Police administrators put him in touch with American Legion Leroy Hill Post 19, where Randy Faircloth and Jeff Barber are among the members who said they've helped pay for Patrick's stay at a Johnson County hotel. Legion post members said they get occasional phone calls like this one, and Patrick is like many homeless soldiers, who are usually too proud to accept help from others.

"The motto of the American Legion is "'still serving'," Barber said.

"We have to be careful who we help because some people aren't who they say they are. We have to have a process to make sure they're doing the right thing," Faircloth added.

"Hope is much better if you have people who are willing to take efforts for you," Patrick said.

"We're one of the best kept secrets. We don't seek attention. A lot of times, people don't know that we exist. We don't want the attention. We don't do it for money," Barber said.

Patrick says he believes his apartment will be ready within the next week. As for the American Legion, he`s thankful there are heroes who rescue fellow heroes. Barber advised that people who know veterans in need should contact their local American Legion post.

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