JOHNSON CITY, Tenn (WJHL) — Mac MacFarland left Vietnam more than 50 years ago, but the trauma of what he experienced there follows him every minute of every day.
“Those memories, no matter what, will never go away,” MacFarland said. “But my motto in life is, ‘Yesterday is gone.’ There ain’t a fool thing in the world you can do to change it. Tomorrow is not guaranteed. The next minute is not guaranteed.”
After repeating his motto in an interview with News Channel 11, MacFarland stopped and repositioned himself in the motorized wheelchair where he spends most of every day.
“So what we have left is today,” he said. “Make the most of your time here on Earth.”
MacFarland said it’s a different motto than the one that once ruled his life.
On Jan. 1, 1990, MacFarland arrived in Johnson City as a homeless man in the grip of anything he could find to numb his pain.
“Staying drunk and panhandling and doing whatever you could to get your next drink and save it until the end of the day,” he said. “So when dark comes on, you could drink it and lay down or, in my case, park and sleep.”
He said he was transferred to the James H. Quillen Veterans Affairs Medical Center from another state through the VA’s homeless veteran program.
Social workers at the VA in Johnson City worked with him over many years to get the medical and psychological help he needed while also helping him find a place to live on his own.
“They gave me a leg up on the list,” MacFarland said. “Heaven only knows how many people are waiting for affordable housing.”
For the past 15 years, he’s known the value of safe housing and a simple life.
“As long as I’ve got a warm, dry place to sleep, food to eat, company to keep, and a way to pay my bills, that’s all I care about,” he said. “If I can make those simple goals each and every day, then I have made a success out of what these folks have helped me with.”
The VA continues its mission to help homeless veterans find safe housing. Veterans who are homeless or at risk of homelessness can call the National Call Center for Homeless Veterans at 1-877-3838.