Memorial Day: A Veteran Stops to Meet a Stranger

Flags line the path to a Memorial Day ceremony at Mountain View Cemetery in Oakland on May 26, 2014. (Alex Emslie/KQED)

Flags line the path to a Memorial Day ceremony at Mountain View Cemetery in Oakland on May 26, 2014. (Alex Emslie/KQED)

Driving to a Memorial Day commemoration in Oakland this morning, Walnut Creek resident John Kopping saw a man with a dirt-stained T-shirt and well-kept beard holding a sign that said simply, “Homeless Vet.” As Kopping neared Mountain View Cemetery, he decided to turn around and see whether the man wanted to join him.

That’s how Kopping, an Army veteran, met Iraq/Afghanistan veteran Robert Hackett, a former Marine who’s been living on the streets of Oakland for the past couple of weeks.

ā€œIā€™d been sitting with my sign for a couple of hours and I got $2,” Hackett said. “He drove by once and he looked at me with a look, and he came back and told me about this and I wanted to go. I really miss being in the service.ā€

Kopping said he wasn’t sure if Hackett would come with him, and he knew it might be emotionally painful. Still, he had to ask.

“I needed to share it with somebody,” Kopping said. “He looked like he needed some help.”

Both men said they were glad Kopping decided to stop and Hackett decided to accompany him.

Listen below as Hackett (left) and Kopping describe their meeting and what they’re feeling on Memorial Day:

Author

Alex Emslie

Alex Emslie is a news reporter focused on criminal justice policy, policing and legal issues. He left Colorado and a career as a carpenter in 2008 to study journalism at community college in San Francisco. He then graduated from San Francisco State University's journalism program with a minor in criminal justice studies. Emslie contributed to several Bay Area newspapers and online news outlets before joining KQED in 2013. He loves multimedia reporting, publishing source documents and transparency. He can be reached at aemslie@kqed.org and followed via @SFNewsReporter.

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