The air was cold. Freezing, actually, as 76-year-old Addison Barber clutched his coffee mug, drawing warmth into his cold hands.
Barber’s small home had been without heat all winter. But the two-time purple heart recipient was tough, admittedly stubborn, and he wasn’t going to complain.
As temperatures in North Carolina plummeted well below freezing, the veteran used the kitchen stove to try to stay warm.
He wrapped his partially paralyzed body in wool blankets, fighting to survive.
In all likelihood, the Vietnam veteran would never have mentioned to anyone how freezing he was, or how little food was in his fridge. He needed an advocate — and he certainly wasn’t going to ask for one.
Enter 20-year-old Sam Melton, who had known Barber for about a year. Melton was accustomed to visiting Barber a few times a week, to help with everyday tasks the soldier could no longer do for himself.
When Melton stepped into the veteran’s freezing home in January, he got fed up.
The young man stepped up and became Barber’s advocate, bringing a community together and raising funds that would keep the veteran warm all winter long, and beyond.
“He served our country and gave so much, so I would like to be able to give back,” Melton wrote on a GoFundMe page he set up on behalf of Barber. “He needs oil for heat, food and some improvements to his house.”
Melton’s mother, Holly Schmitt, also helped advocate for Barber. Schmitt had once been a home health care provider for Barber, and said he and her son hit it off after she introduced the pair a couple years ago.
“I just thought this is crazy,” Schmitt told WJZY-TV. “There are people out there that need to know that this is a disabled veteran who served our country who is going without.”
Thanks to the power of community, things are looking up for Barber. His heater is full of oil, volunteers have agreed to modify Barber’s home to make it wheelchair accessible, and local grocers have kept the veteran’s fridge full.
“It makes me feel really good,” said a tearful Schmitt. “It makes me feel proud of the community that we have.”
Melton has been overwhelmed with the outpouring of support, and is in awe of the war veteran’s strength. “You can’t take the little things for granted,” Melton expressed.
“Seeing him never complain, it’s really showed me that you don’t need a lot to be happy,” he said. “All you need is friends and family.”
Friends, family, and acquaintances who watch out for you, as this story has shown. Thank goodness for caring, observant individuals with servant hearts!
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