ONLY ON 3: Homeless man’s death raises questions about support for veterans

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Submitted: Sat, 11/10/2012 - 4:59am
Updated: Sun, 11/11/2012 - 2:31am

WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — Monday we told you about a man found dead and burned at a homeless camp in Wilmington. Friends tell us he was a veteran. That’s leading many to question whether we are doing enough to support our returning troops.

Friends say Justin-John Crum, 28, served in Afghanistan. But why do many of our veterans find life so hard when they come home from war?

“Justin? He was a character,” friend Tim Thayer said. “I’m sorry that he passed. He was a young man.”

Thayer once lived on the streets with Crum. Today, Thayer has his life together. He says Crum wanted to do the same but couldn’t.

“The government says, ‘We’re going to help vets do this, help vets do that,'” Crum said, “but I think family and friends are a big plus, a big support.”

Another veteran we spoke with who is homeless did not want to show her face. She agrees more needs to be done to help the troops when they come home.

“I think that society could be more compassionate,” she said.

And she thinks that the government does not make veterans’ needs a priority after they have served.

“You feel that I was a soldier, I was a sailor, I was a Marine. You know, I shouldn’t be in this situation,” she said.

And while both agree that the transition back to civilian life is hard, they encourage fellow veterans not to give up.

“Things can be better,” Thayer said. “You don’t have to live like this.”

The veteran who now finds herself homeless said, “Don’t be too proud. Get help. Seek answers for your issues and concerns.”

Crum’s death at a homeless camp off 16th Street in Wilmington is still under investigation. Detectives are waiting on the results of an autopsy.


  • Das WeibstĂĽck says:

    If you dont seek help and be willing to help yourself what do you want? Is the VA suppose to come find you? SO you served? Many people do and they deal with it the right way.

  • Tommy says:

    I served with Crum. He was a great person who had issues from his PTSD which eventually led to alcoholism. We were in the same unit again when he was discharged and he was left to fend for himself with no benefits given to him due to his discharge.

    He deserved much better than this. What a sad ending to such a young life. I hope the people who turned their backs on them take time to reflect on how they wronged him and what they should have done. This should NEVER happen to someone who volunteered to serve his country at a time of war EVER.

    RIP Justin-John Crum.

  • August100 says:

    How about IMMEDIATE REAL HOUSING for the homeless veterans that is FREE FROM those horrible 12-step religious AA/NA cult & “Jesus Saves” mandates?

  • dawg says:

    First of all my concern is genuine, The news station called me to ask about the Homeless Veterans in this area as they many times do when they need info about Vetrans. I gave my honest opinion that I did not but asked them before they print any article about Veterans they should confirm that the person is a Veteran. Unfortunately I am and most Vets know the large amount of persons impersonating Veterans.
    Read the books, Stolen Valor & Fake Warriors, this will give you much impute into the concerns of not only me but all Veterans.
    Pres. Reagan said it best “Trust but Verify”
    Semper Fi

  • GuestUSMC says:

    We must remember, many homeless, including veterans, choose to live this lifestyle. It is not always the fault of society. There is always help for those who truly want to improve their status.

  • SusanK says:

    I saw a story, I believe it was on WECT’s web site. I’ve been trying to find it, find any more information about it. While I strongly believe our government should do more, i also believe we as a community can do more, and that project was something I was more than willing to jump on board with, and I’m sure my church would as well. I’m pretty sure it was in Bolivia, it was a Baptist minister and I think he said they had somewhere around 8 acres where he was looking to build a homeless shelter for vets. I hope WWAY can do some research on this, find this minister (in my mind it was on 17, but I think that was just my assumption from the description). This highlights the urgent need for something of that sort, and I hope the whole community can jump on board with it.

  • Dawg says:

    This is very sad whether this young man is a Veteran or not.
    I would like to see confirmation first that he is indeed a Veteran. Unfortunately in our world today many claim to be Veterans and are not.
    I say this because being a Vietnam Veteran I know the hardships coming home from a war. But I must say from back in those days till now that the VA is helping all Veterans who seek help. The VA cannot accomplish their help if someone will not come to them. We hope that friends and families will persuade their Veterans to seek help but some times it falls thru the cracks.
    Our VA as far I am concerned is doing a good job at this point to help all Veterans when they come to them.
    Semper Fi

  • Guest28405 says:

    Since you think you have the right to see verification that he was indeed a Veteran, why didn’t your post contain your verification of your claim to be a Veteran? Who are you that someone needs to verify themselves to you. Could you really be any more heartless? I thought the military thought about compassion and looking out for your fellow man. Evidently, all retained was the arrogance.

  • b says:

    I personally knew Justin and was working with him closely. I cannot tell you how difficult going through the VA. Justin was working actively to turn his life around and to get the help he needed. And YES it is confirmed his was a Vet and fought for us and believed in and considered returning to the Army…

  • SouthernTransplant says:

    His friends and family who appreciated his tour in Iraq are “convinced,” and that is good enough. Confirming his veteran status for those who are jaded by random imposters is a waste of time and energy.

  • Guest9743 says:

    Providing assistance to our veterans such as disability compensations, housing, medical care, etc. is a noble idea but there are those that will view this as an “entitlement” and will complain about their “taxpayer dollars” being used in this manner but hopefully all veterans that need help will be able to get it without a lot of red tape.

  • Veteran Resort chapel says:

    News never printed-death to homeless veterans
    In writing the town is using the protest art work at 465 Packers falls Rd in Lee NH (to be removed at town expense) for permission to let the Veteran Resort-Chapel (VRC) at 101 Stepping Stone Rd to be built. A conspiracy to use the lives of US Military Veterans living in the cold to force a resident on the other side of town to remove artwork the town selectmen and planning board do not like. The hard part to believe is the newspapers refuse to inform their readers of this criminal and atrocious act. The next meeting with the town board is on April 24, at 7PM in the Lee Fire Station. The newspapers are welcome to copies of the letter from the Lee Planning board member Kevin Crawford a neighbor to the VRC. Kevin used his position and trusted government power to run up the expenses of the VRC by having the driveway placed in the wrong spot then moved. He also is a part of the conspiracy to get the artwork on Packers falls rd removed. Kevin has an electrical and development business that appears uses government power to keep homeless and disabled US Military Veterans from his neighborhood. Can this be the truth or do I see the truth wrong?
    A letter from the local building inspector clearly talks about the conspiracy and asks the selectmen for permission to move forward on it. So far the Lee government has publicly stated they are all for helping US Military Veterans but has continued using the trusted power of the people to run up the VRC expenses to delay and cause attritions to stop homeless US Military Veterans from coming to Lee NH or finding shelter in Lee NH.
    I have it in writing and the newspapers still refuse to print it. I did agree that the lives of homeless US Military Veterans is worth my pride to let the artwork be removed. It is ashamed that the Town of Lee New Hampshire thinks so little of the US Military Veterans in this great nation.
    Letters to the editor was started boy our founding fathers to allow the average citizen to inform the public of just such atrocities’
    Peter Macdonald Sgt USMC Semper Fi
    464 Packers falls Rd Lee NH 03824

  • Ashley Crum says:

    I am Justin Crums wife and we had some great times together he taught me alot and gave me so many dreams…He was such an amazing person so full of laughter and humor..He was very smart and truly deservered the world I wish I was able to help him when the ptsd kicked in he was suffering very badly and my heart is numb after all this..Me and Justin talked on a normal basis and he had always remained my husband and one of my best friends..He had so much love but was lost..He loved his father very much and looked up to him so much I have heard so many good things..The pain I feel when I reach for the phone to call him like im used to and knowing he has passed is not settling well with me..I will always love you Justin and the words you shared with me a few weeks ago will always be treasured and kept close to my heart..This story needs to be heard I truly believe more can be done to help our troops hes not the first whos suffered and sure wont be the last we need to stand up and make our voices heard more can be done to help..I am asking god to grant me the strength to heal from this with Justin watching over me with all his love..My voice will be heard in honor of my husband..

  • disappointed says:

    Ashley, where were you when he needed help. Now you care? You should be ashamed of yourself.

  • morgan says:

    While many are homeless because of drugs or booze some are not.
    It’s not that easy to get going again.
    Most shelters make you leave with all your belongings a 6am and you are not guaranteed a bed when you get back.
    Wilmington is one of the few exceptions but the beds are limited in the few places that let you leave your stuff and hold beds.

  • Guest2012 says:

    Why are we leaving our wounded Behind?

    This young mans death is both a Disgrace and an Outrage.

    This Vet (dispite his demons and dispite him being “a character”) should have been outreached to, engaged and HELPED. Why are we ‘stigmatizing’ a vet by saying, “ohh, Justin-John was a CHARACTER”.

    That type of “character assassination” allows the ‘holier than thou’ crowd to totally write him off as some sort of bum who was not battling demons from sunrise to sundown, who did not valantly defend this great nation, and who didn’t deserve better.

    I am here to tell everyone, HE DESERVED BETTER and I thank the one individual who stated that they were assisting him. You DID what was expected of you. YOU did a GOOD Job. I could read between the lines and know that you were making headway with him. Sadly, Justin-John slipped through the cracks.

    However, I wonder where were the 48+ PROGRAMS in Wilmington which are funded to help homeless veterans (and homeless people in general)?

    I believe that the Bureaucrats are running them.

    Before the ‘bureaucrats’ defend themselves, they should ask themselves, “Did I just work a 9-5 day, or did I just take the holiday off, and am I really committed to assisting these folks in their quest to recover?”

    Uhm, the bureaucrats will never be able to make a difference if they continue to work bankers hours with the homeless community, especially vets who need interventions at night, on the street and in the woods.

    … And to the individual who asked, “yes, we should be going to them WHEREEVER they are to OUTREACH, ENGAGE and ASSIST them.

    The cottage industry system is broken.

  • Guest Smith says:

    I too knew Justin and he was a very quiet, humble young man who did not deserve to die in this horrible way. I dont know his family but I hope they can learn to live with knowing they lived in a nice warm home while their son lived in a tent in the woods. Why didnt they reach out to him. My son was a good friend of his and has been devastated by this news. My heart breaks for that sweet young man and had I known where he was I would have offered help myself. We gave him a home once and I would have done it again. RIP Justin.

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