August 31, 2005

 

        Quietly, almost unnoticeably, John Evans stands on a Washington D.C. street corner and tries to get his message across to anyone who will slow their car down long enough to read his three homemade signs.

        The 57-year-old traveled from Indiana to the nation’s capital last year because he felt he had to protest an injustice he had suffered.

The decision wasn’t too difficult to make. Evans lost his home, his car and his savings, paying for medical care he said the government owed him.

        Evans fought in Vietnam, attained the rank of sergeant, and is proud of defending his country.

        But he came back with post traumatic stress and the government didn’t want to pay for his treatment, he said. Evans suffered with the disorder for decades, paying for health ailments, including a heart attack, out of his own pocket. He filed bankruptcy because he owed the hospital money and had nothing left to sell.  

        Last September, right after the Labor Day holiday, he decided President Bush and others needed to hear his complaints. It was too late for Evans. He was repaid some of the money he felt he was owed, but his possessions had long been sold.

        “What am I going to do?” Evans asked. “My house is gone, my car is gone. It’s too late for me.”

        Evans doesn’t want to sue his government for the money, nor does he seek any media attention. He is far too proud of man for that. He just wants future servicemen and women not to have to endure what he did.

        For several hours every day for the past year, Evans has taken his three homemade signs and stood on this street corner down the street from the Washington Monument and kitty corner to the World War II Memorial.


 

        “This war we are in is bad,” Evans said. “They are coming home with stress. Nobody treated us for stress, they just gave us more stress.”

        Evans is as unassuming as his sign. There is nothing provocative on them. Nothing titillating, looking to shock those who read them.

        One sign is yellow and says in black lettering, “Without our veterans or troops, we would not have a country.” It also directs people to a website, www.forgottenvets.com. The sign in his left hand asks a simple question. “Should we clean up our own home, before we start with somebody else?”

        The white sign that rests on his chest and stomach, held by a white string around his neck states “No donation” and asks, “Will our troops be treated for stress with stress like I am now?” and at the bottom says, “Lord help us.”

        There are other writings on the back of his signs, but no one gets to see them since he faces oncoming traffic and it is difficult enough to read the front.

        The hope, Evans believes, is that people will see the front of the signs, remember the website and then learn more about his cause there.

        Evans is a God-fearing man, only looking to help his fellow veterans and soldiers. He has no press agent, does not set up across from the President’s vacation spot and is not planning on a media-filled bus caravan across the country.

        The only traveling Evans does is from his small studio apartment near downtown to this site. Occasionally he will go to the Capitol Building or in front of the White House to protest, but finds it much more peaceful here.

        “There are too many tourists there,” Evans said. “They don’t want to read my signs.”

        The people in passing cars try to and some even honk their horns in approval or wave to Evans. He returns the wave, almost embarrassed, but ultimately glad that someone recognizes what he is doing.

        Evans doesn’t want to drown out the message he is trying to get others to hear.

        “It’s not right how they treat our veterans and our troops,” Evans said. “We need to treat them right when they come home.”

        The vigil will continue, Evans said.

        “I am out here every day I can,” Evans said. “I’ll be out here until I die or it changes. I think it will change, at least I hope it does.”