Veterans in need? They’ve got friends, indeed

Veterans in need? They’ve got friends, indeed
By Sam Richards

Finding a place to live can be an expensive challenge in the Bay Area, and for Richard Metsiou, a Vietnam veteran battling cancer and a bad credit score, an almost impossible one.

So when his longtime landlord died and her family chose to sell the Pittsburg house where he and his family have been living, he had to act fast. Metsiou needed a little help from his friends, and he got it.

Some of them were friends he’d never met before.

“A friend of mine came to me and said Richard was in a bind,” said Sean Poynter, of Pittsburg, who knows Metsiou from the Mount Diablo Disabled American Veterans post in Pittsburg, where he is senior vice commander. “I put it out in an email, that a fellow (veteran) needed some help, and all these guys showed up.”

On Friday, eight members of veterans groups from East Contra Costa County, and from Shelter, Inc. of Contra Costa, a nonprofit whose main mission is fighting homelessness, were unloading trailers in front of a house on West 10th Street in Antioch, where Metsiou, his wife, Zitta, and their three adopted grandchildren will soon live.

But before that, Poynter called Shelter, Inc. for help, and it came though big time, he said. The agency helped find an affordable house with an owner who could deal with Metsiou’s credit issues.

“They’ve been absolutely great,” said 68-year-old Metsiou, who is physically weak and also battling post-traumatic stress disorder.

George Brown, part of the crew Friday moving the Metsiou family’s possessions to the Antioch house, said he and many of his friends help with moves like this on a regular basis.

“We’re open to doing this anytime,” said Brown, vice president of the Antioch-based Delta Veterans Group. “We spend much of our free time donating to our community veterans.”

Metsiou served in the Army’s 101st Airborne “for 366 days in 1968 and ’69,” he said. “I’m one of the lucky ones who made it back from Hamburger Hill,” referring to a battle against the North Vietnamese in May 1969 in which 400 Americans died and which drew criticism from some lawmakers for its questionable strategic value. His landlord consented to give him until New Year’s to find a new place to live.

On Friday, members of the Delta Veterans Group, the Disabled American Veterans, the Combat Veterans Motorcycle Association and Shelter, Inc. were helping with the move. Though Richard Metsiou on Friday wasn’t physically up to helping in that effort, his wife, Zitta Sovdagarova, was there, watching the volunteers making quick work of two trailers of household items.

“If it wasn’t for the veterans, we’d be out on the street,” said Zitta, 65, Richard’s wife of 23 years. Playing in the new backyard were two of her three grandchildren, ages 11, 7 and 2, whom she and Richard have adopted. Her daughter wasn’t able to care for them, she said. “The government was about to take them.”

Friday’s move was nothing out of the ordinary for guys like George Brown and J.R. Wilson, commander of the local Disabled American Veterans unit. They like serving fellow vets in this way, and do it for free.

“A lot of times they don’t know they have the option of calling for us,” Brown said. “Often, they’re too proud to do it, but we all need help sometimes.”


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