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.

“I’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.”

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:

Memorial Day: A Veteran Stops to Meet a Stranger 7 October,2014Alex Emslie


Alex Emslie

Alex Emslie is a criminal justice reporter at KQED. He covers policing policy, crime and the courts.

He left Colorado and a career as a carpenter in 2008 to study journalism at City College of San Francisco. He then graduated from San Francisco State University's journalism program with a minor in criminal justice studies. Prior to joining KQED in 2013, Alex freelanced for various news outlets including the Huffington Post, San Francisco Chronicle, San Francisco Examiner and Bay Guardian.

Alex is proud of his work at KQED on a spike in fatal officer-involved shootings in Vallejo, which uncovered that a single officer shot and killed three suspects over the course of five months. Alex's work with a team at KQED on police encounters with people in psychiatric crisis was cited in amicus briefs before the U.S. Supreme Court. He received the Northern California Society of Professional Journalists Best Scoop award in 2015 for exposing a series of bigoted text messages swapped by San Francisco police officers. He was honored with 2010 San Francisco Peninsula Press Club and California Newspaper Publishers Association awards for breaking news reporting on the trial following the shooting of Oscar Grant. Email: aemslie@kqed.org. Twitter: @SFNewsReporter.

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