BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - A Vietnam veteran living out of his van got a visit from Gulfport police on Christmas Day. It wasn't because he was in trouble, it was because he was in need.
On any given day, you can see Gene "Blue" Mitchell sitting next to his parked van, which is also his home, throwing a ball to his dog, Thor, at the corner of Debuys Rd. and Hwy. 90 in Biloxi. That's where officers paid him a visit on Christmas.
"We had a lot of food at home, and I remember Blue was out here, so we packed us up a big plate and a couple of officers and myself came out and brought him food, and we just sat and talked with him for a while and listened to his story," said Officer John McNeill.
During that conversation, McNeill learned Blue was also once a man in uniform.
"I was in Vietnam for two 13-month tours in the country. Most of my work was intelligence gathering and reconnaissance work behind enemy lines," said Blue.
While in Hue, Vietnam, Blue was badly injured after being hit by shrapnel. He was awarded the Purple Heart. Now, his dream is to visit the Vietnam Memorial in Washington D.C. He needs to fix his vehicle's rear end before he can get there.
"When I heard it from one war vet to another, I couldn't pass it up. I had to do something. Yesterday, I set up a GoFundMe account for Mr. Gene, and so far we've got $70. I'm hoping to get a little bit more, but the goal is to get his van fixed so he can travel to D.C.," said Officer Anthony Scheeler.
Blue lives on a small social security check., so fixing his van won't come easy. He doesn't have a home, and he has no living relatives, but he has Thor.
"A good little traveling companion who don't argue with me. I'm always right," Blue said.
Blue has his beloved country that he hopes to continue to see more of if he's able to get back on the road.
"That particular generation, when they came back from war, weren't treated as well as the guys who are coming back today. It makes us feel good to be able to help," said McNeill.
"Right now, with people helping me like this, I can't lose," said Blue.
Several others have helped Blue, like Ms. Betty, who brings him food and a newspaper every day. Craig Wiggins and Richard Hammertree helped him repair the motor in his van.