Former Marine Joe Clemens has one final mission—help as many Veterans as he can, while he can.
Clemens, who is diagnosed with terminal Neurotic Idiopathic Angioedema, a rare blood disease, has spent the last 8 years helping homeless veterans, many with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, get back on their feet and re-acclimated to society.
Clemens said the calling on his life to assist other veterans came from his own experience after his service in the Marines had ended.
“I do this to help veterans because when I got out nobody helped me,” Clemens said. “And I went to all of these service organizations, and I didn’t get anywhere.”
Clemens explains that in military combat, a soldier is responsible for the man on his left and the man on his right. With that same idea, Clemens opened up his home to any Veteran that needed it.
“I offer them a place to live," Clemens said. If they need clothes, I buy them clothes, If they need food, then I buy food for them. Whatever they need."
But Clemens doesn’t stop at just basic necessities. He also helps veterans go back to school, apply for grants, get job training assistance and help make sure they receive fair medical coverage and benefits from the US Department of Veterans Affairs. And he doesn’t want much in return.
“Joe’s expectations are very simple—pay it forward,” said John Kavanagh, who is currently staying at Clemens house.
Kavanagh, who served in the Air Force, fell on bad times after an auto mobile accident, and eventually wound up homeless. Until the day he met Clemens.
“I told him what was going on, and he said ‘really, that’s what’s going on, well, you are staying with me, that is it,” Kavanagh said.
It was the olive branch Kavanagh so desperately needed, and a branch he now wants to extend it to others.
“This house represents hope. You know you are worth it, and I want to help you get to where you belong,” Kavanagh said.
For Clemens, the house has turned out to be one of his greatest missions yet.
“Seeing somebody get out there on their own, and start a family and live the dream that they fought and protected for is the greatest feeling on earth, to see them get them on the right path and to get them healthy.”
Clemens said he has housed over 60 Veterans in the past 8 years.