Homeless vet can teach us all about dignity and grace

Homeless vet can teach us all about dignity and grace
Perry is one of an estimated 39,470 homeless veterans across America. (Photo source: WLOX)
Perry is one of an estimated 39,470 homeless veterans across America. (Photo source: WLOX)

OCEAN SPRINGS, MS (WLOX) - If you drive around Ocean Springs these days, chances are you'll see Willie Perry. He's the man on the bike, with all his worldly possessions neatly packed onto an attached wagon. Willie is homeless, but he carries himself with a dignified grace. And he may just change your mind about the plight of the homeless.

Perry spends most of his days seeking shade from the South Mississippi heat.  A divorce in Texas left him without a home long ago, so he hopped on a bike and found his way here.

The 44-year-old is also a veteran, spending more than eight years in the Navy.

"I was in charge of radio work, communications. I served on the USS Ronald Reagan, but most of the time I was stationed in Corpus Christi," Perry recalled.

How is he treated by passersby?

"Most of them treat you fairly good. Some of them, they yell at you and throw stuff at you when they are driving by in their cars."

Perry is a voracious reader.

"It doesn't matter what it is. I read everything from the Bible to Dean Koontz. I read everything. I just like to read, keeps my mind going," Perry explained.

One thing he never does is panhandle.

"I just feel it downgrades you a little bit. Everybody can see that I'm homeless with my bike and everything."

While he doesn't ask for money, or even help, he does ask for one thing.

"I deserve a little respect. Not much, but just a little bit."

Leading a lifestyle where no day is the same, there is one constant in Perry's life. It's man's best friend, and his name is Rosco. Perry explained the close connection between he and the dog.

"He'll let me know if anyone is coming out. He's my best friend. He sleeps with me in my sleeping bag. He crawls all the way down there and sleeps by my feet."

And where does that sleep take place? Perry said away from open eyes.

"They like it being out of sight, out of mind.  In the woods or behind something where no one can see you so you won't get the calls on you."

If there is one message this honorably discharged veteran want everyone to understand, it's this: "I'm just good people. People want to pull over and talk to me, I've got all day to talk to them you know."

Willie Perry said he hopes one day to get back into a home of his own. He has applied for assistance from the VA, but has not heard back yet.

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