Daniel, an unhoused military veteran, received several commemorative gifts to thank him for his service in a small but intimate ceremony yesterday at a shelter for terminally ill unhoused people.
Daniel is 64 years old and on his “final ‘tour of duty,’” according to a press release, at Rocky Mountain Refuge for End of Life Care, a nonprofit organization started during the pandemic dedicated to providing a final resting place and “family style” hospice care for unhoused people dying from terminal illnesses.
Rocky Mountain Refuge rents two beds at The Crossing, a facility owned by Denver Rescue Mission. Curtains section off a third bed in the administrative office to provide privacy.
In a ceremony attended by about a dozen people, Larry Sturgeon presented Daniel with a Vietnam bead set, a star from the American flag, an American flag pin, a pin that said “We Honor Veterans,” and two certificates from TRU Community Care, a nonprofit health care organization that provides a range of care for those dealing with loss and advanced illness.
The Vietnam bead set had yellow, red, and green beads. Red and yellow symbolized the colors of the Vietnamese flag, and green symbolized the jungle. Sturgeon said a Vietnam bead set could only be given from one veteran to another.
“I’m proud to be an American, and I’m proud to be a Marine and I’m proud to be able to serve not only you people, but other people like you,” Daniel said after the event.
Daniel is dying from cancer, according to reporting done by Rocky Mountain PBS, which reported that Daniel said he was born and raised in Phoenix, Arizona. He got in legal trouble and had two options: go to jail or serve in the military. Daniel chose to serve and went to the Marine Corps in San Diego, California. He received an honorable discharge and has been “homeless off and on since 2020.”
Brother James Patrick Hall, executive director of Rocky Mountain Refuge and friar with the Brotherhood of St. Gregory, told the Colorado Times Recorder that the facility is one of four specialized shelters in the nation that does this type of work with unhoused people.
“This is a very important and vital service for our community that is really not available in most of the country,” he said.
The Colorado Coalition for Homelessness reported that the Office of the Medical Examiner recorded 173 deaths among unhoused people in 2022, “the highest number recorded by the Coalition since this report was launched.”
Additionally, the National Alliance to End Homelessness estimated that there were 10,397 unhoused people “on a given night” in Colorado in 2022. The United States Department of Housing and Urban Development estimated there were approximately 738 unhoused veterans in Colorado that same year.
Peter DeBlois, a volunteer with Rocky Mountain Refuge, said he became involved with the organization through his church, St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church of Denver. For DeBlois, seeing Daniel being honored was incredibly rewarding and a step in the right direction.
“It felt really good because many veterans don’t get the recognition they deserve, and those who do are typically not people in Daniel’s situation, who has a terminal illness,” DeBlois said in an interview with the Colorado Times Recorder. “And so to see this service today made me feel so good for Daniel but also for the future when we have veterans. We’re going to be able to recognize them through programs like this.”
In an email to the Colorado Times Recorder, Hall emphasized the significance of the program.
“Rocky Mountain Refuge is the only shelter in Colorado that offers round-the-clock custodial family style care, where unhoused folks are kept safe and comfortable and can receive hospice care from our partner agencies,” he wrote. “Without our services many people experiencing homelessness will die on the streets, often in terrible pain, afraid, and alone.”
CORRECTION. The initial version of this article contained an error that occurred during the editing process. The article was changed June 19 to reflect the fact that the Colorado Times Recorder could not confirm the claim that Daniel Read was a Vietnam War veteran. He is a military veteran.