What drew me to this story in the first place was a news article I read about Alpha Camp receiving a reprieve from the Arizona Department of Transportation’s attempts to evict them. As I dug deeper, I found even more to pique my interest – the problem of veteran homelessness, vigilante efforts to fight crime and shut down drug dealers, alleged ties with right-wing militants and, of course, a founder who’s prone to climbing light poles to wave upside-down flags.
I wasn’t disappointed. Reporting this story cracked open a world of interesting issues and characters – there were the rock-loving brother and sister who’ve been out on the streets for years; the couple who bring dinner every week, prompted by their daughter’s own struggles with homelessness; the 29-year-old vet whose dreams of being a chef were cut short after an injury in basic training left him prone to seizures.
When I sat down with my notes, I found myself torn in a number of different directions. In the end, though, I was won over by the theme of redemption.
Though Meyer isn’t himself a veteran (and was initially reluctant to be featured), his story both provides an analogy for the experiences of so many veterans as well as an example of how an ordinary person can become captured by passion for a cause outside themselves.
I wish I could have had weeks to work on this, but this piece offers one small piece of the story. I encourage anyone with interest to check out what Veterans on Patrol are doing.
Though they’ve sometimes been painted as a right-wing group, Meyer emphasized their apolitical nature and desire to connect with the local community.