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Jim Proffitt - RIP
By Yesenia Flores
Jim Proffitt. I have to admit that I heard that name in full when I learned of his passing but I immediately knew the face. I knew his drive, his commitment, his sacrifices, his laugh. I knew him.
Virginia and Jim Proffitt receiving VVAW's Winter Soldier
Award from VVAW board member Bill Branson at the
Summer 2013 Veterans Homeless Standdown in Chicago.
For years I worked side by side with him throughout the Standdown for Homeless Vets events and in those moments I am surrounded by incredible human beings who sacrificed their life for our country and then went on to fight for the rights of Vets that are not as fortunate as they were when they got out of the military. Jimmy was one of these amazing human beings, and for this and many more reasons he will be truly and deeply missed.
I know that the family atmosphere I get when I come in at six in the morning ready to sweat and work the day away will never be the same without Jimmy there. He was a man who treated everyone as equals regardless of which side of the line you stood on. For him it was important to show that the Vets that come in for the services provided are no less than those who are providing them. He was quick to put anyone in their place that stepped out of line, volunteer or Vet. And yet, that same man who showed authority was quick to whip up a lunch for anyone that might have missed it.
I remember one time in a rare moment, he showed his softer side. It was his birthday during one of the Standdowns and he was surprised with a cake and singing. I saw it in his face how surprised he truly was. He got choked up a little and his eyes watered some and he was truly grateful. This man who gave so much of himself to the cause was in awe when we gave back to him. This proves that he didn't do it for the glory or a pat on the back, he did it because he cared. He did it because he knew that no man or woman should put their lives on the line the way these men and women did just to feel alone when they need a helping hand the most. I know that the upcoming Winter event will not be the same without him there but his spirit and his drive will be there to push all of us volunteers to do our very best.
VietNow will never be the same either. Jimmy was their National Homeless Chairman, and this meant that for decades he was part of a team that handed out bagged lunches and snacks to countless homeless Veterans. So rain or shine, sleet or snow he was out there providing men and women who served their country a little love and hope. His mission was to show them that they are not forgotten, and if those of us continuing his work could do one fifth of what he did then I know that the future will look brighter for the cause.
Having attended his wake recently, I realized just how much of an impact he had on so many people. The number of visitors that kept coming in was just overwhelming, but reassuring. I am reassured because I know so many of those people will continue his work. He made it his mission to get to know those that he served on his Sunday runs that I am certain no one wants to let them down. As hard of a job as it is, I know Jimmy would want them to continue to feel the love and support they get from his food truck. It is now our mission to continue his work and make sure his legacy lives on for decades to come.
Having heard all the memories people have of Jimmy there is one thing I regret about my encounters with him, and that is that I would have liked to have sat down with him one day and just listen. Listen to his stories, his wisdom, his charisma. But knowing who he was, he was just too busy and too preoccupied to do that at a Standdown event. Even so, I will always have my memories of him. Little snippets here and there, cherished moments that will live on in my heart and mind for the rest of my life. So Jimmy, thank you for all that you did. Thank you for your service in the Marine Corps, but most importantly thank you for the service you provided after. Many people have been touched by your life, your work, your dedication. I am one of hundreds. So may you rest in peace. And do me a favor will you? Don't give the Army guys up there such a hard time!
And finally, a message to his tough as nails wife Virginia. Know that you are not alone in your pain and loss. I know for a fact that you have countless memories that will fill your heart with love and happiness. I am here for you as a shoulder to cry on or as a working bee ready to take orders. I know that you will continue his legacy not only in the Standdown events but also in VietNow. And I can assure you that there are many people behind you willing to lend a helping hand.
Rest in peace Jim Proffitt.
Yesenia Flores has been volunteering alongside VVAW at the Standdown events for the past four years. As a sister to a Marine, she knows how important it is to show our gratitude and support to those that have put their life on the line for our safety and freedom. She is extremely proud to be a part of the Standdown and VVAW family.