With another Veterans Day ended, one local veteran is telling the community that, despite being homeless and ravaged by several tours through violent combat zones, he’s just happy everyone thought about him the other day.On Tuesday, 29-year-old Henry Stroehecker expressed his gratitude to people across the country to take a brief moment to acknowledge his four grueling years as an infantryman in a war-torn Afghanistan that cost him dearly both mentally and physically.
“I can only describe it as a waking nightmare,” said Stroehecker, itching at his arms as the result of a drug addiction that muffles but never silences the demons in his head. “But just having everyone think about me for one day a year makes it all worthwhile. I can’t thank everyone enough for their thoughts.” Pvt. Stroehecker was grievously wounded when his unit encountered heavy resistance in a mountainous region of Afghanistan known as Reaper’s Peak.
Sniper fire kept them pinned down for the better part of a day, and many of the private’s brothers in arms were gunned down before his very eyes. He said such trauma would have been paralyzing if not for the knowledge that, should he make it out alive, local news anchors would annually remind their audiences to keep people like him in their prayers. “I might not have health insurance or any sort of support system, but just being in everyone’s thoughts for the day, well, that’s just as good if not better,” said Stroehecker. “You did your part by just knowing I exist.
Well, not me personally, of course, but the abstract concept of veterans in general.” Hollow displays of gratitude were plentiful this year, giving veterans like Stroehecker the perennial attention they deserve in lieu of access to adequate medical care and mental health counseling. On a local radio station, the DJ asked his listeners to engage in a moment of silence before launching into the station’s weekly Weird Al marathon. “I saw they were giving a 5% discount at a car wash near here,” said Stroehecker. It just made me so happy to know that they held a parade,” said Stroehecker as he assembled a patchwork cigarette from the remnants of numerous cigarette butts he collected from a nearby sewage grate. “Once a year everyone comes together for a common purpose: to acknowledge that veterans exist. And that’s really what matters. That’s what we fought for.”