Sarge

We knew him as Sarge or Military Frank!

You couldn't miss him. Frank was a big dude with a big personality. He was loud, opinionated, embarrassing, dominating and ever present.

...but, if you were in his good books; man, did he love you and stand up for you with immense energy and an uncontrollable passion!

... and most of us were in his good books, and man, did we love this eccentric fella who'd draw attention in any room!

Frank was a Vietnam veteran who ended up experiencing homelessness in Chicago. When he arrived and stayed at CCO for a while, nobody could hide from his military experience; he spoke of it, lived it out and breathed it. It embodied every aspect of his existence! All day, every day, Frank couldn't escape this period from decades before. He fluctuated between his pride of serving his country, the agony of witnessing and experiencing horrifying things and having been through a war that he would later question! 

Frank wore the same clothes all day, every day. Whether he was sweating in the brutal heat of summer, until the bitter chill of winter, we'd find this man wearing his black combat boots and multiple layers of navy blue shirts, and navy blue pants. Only his coat and his hat would change, depending on the season! If we dared question his choice of clothing, he'd bombard us with survival stories from 'Nam and how wearing such layers made him a survivor. This man, my friend, was a survivor of epic proportions, so we'd leave our overtly sweaty buddy, knowing our pleas weren't going make him change.

Sarge was an incredible volunteer and one of the hardest workers I've ever met. He loved to help us! It gave him purpose! It gave him pride! All his military training would come out as he mopped the floor, wiped down the tables and set up the mats. He took this work seriously, was passionate about it and would show us how to perform these chores the right way! With copious amounts of sweat and boisterous instructions, Frank would outwork and out-hustle all who dared to challenge his work ethic and energy. He would put us young fellas to shame!

Frank sat in our dining room all day, every day, making sure everything was spotless. He considered himself our ears and eyes! He cared for us, he loved us and wanted to protect us. He was a man of unrelenting faith in Jesus, so he constantly pushed us toward his version of righteousness. He felt it was his mission to make everyone and everything he loved better. With his big personality, sexual nuances and often crass language, he'd wouldn't allow us to slip into complacency or drift away from our callings. Though his theology was dodgy, his unrelenting passion and drive to do right in Jesus, drove us toward our Creator and encouraged us to never give up! He was our constant reminder that in life, we need to look outside ourselves, to Jesus and those who are suffering!

Sarge eventually moved on. He stayed in little studio apartments. Unfortunately, in being alone, his mental illness became severe and crippling. He fought to deal with the trauma of fighting in a war he grew to disagree with. He also fought to deal with the many years he was harassed, bullied and targeted simply because he was homeless. His stories of both were horrifying and traumatic, and that made him question, how he, a veteran had been forsaken and criminalized by the very country he had faithfully served. His paranoia became paralyzing, it captured him, overwhelmed him and isolated him.

Even though Sarge suffered, even though he was harassed, even though he was a victim, he never lost that unrelenting drive and passion to do right in the face of evil. His love never died, his compassion stood strong and he wanted to help those in need. I would occasionally bump into him in various coffee joints around the city, and even though I worried tremendously about my old paranoid buddy, I loved seeing him because I always left inspired to not give in, but to keep on fighting for what's good and right in this messed up world. Even though everything tried to push him under, he never surrendered and continued to keep that defiant fist in the air!

Frank left this earth last year, alone...

He is alone no more! He is paranoid no more! He is harassed no more! He is free! He is united with the One he loves so dearly! He can now rest in the loving embrace of His Heavenly Father!

Rest in Peace Frank; your eccentric words, paranoid musings and vulgar illustrations continue to inspire me to look to Jesus, take risks and fight for what is right. Thank you for being you.....
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