By John Tarleton
Herold Noel’s homeless ordeal is over, thanks to a wave of media attention he received after being featured on the cover of the Dec. 22 Indypendent. But, the Iraq War vet vows to continue his battle.
“My fight might be over, but it’s not over for all the veterans who are still in my situation,” Noel told a small crowd of reporters and camerapersons on Jan. 26 when he moved into a donated apartment in the Bronx. “I won’t stop fighting for everyone who ends up like me.”
Noel, 25, a Flatbush native, participated in the March 2003 invasion of Iraq as a member of the 3rd Infantry 7th Cavalry. He later saw intense combat near Falluja before being honorably discharged in December 2003. A series of misfortunes left Noel, his wife and their three children homeless by last summer. When The Indypendent broke his story (“Soldier’s Story: A Perilous Journey from Flatbush to Falluja And Back Leaves Herold Noel Out In The Cold”), he was living outside in the middle of the winter while his wife and children stayed with relatives.
Noel’s story was subsequently picked up by Democracy Now!, CBS, CNN, The New York Post, the UK Guardian as well as a number of web sites. In January, an anonymous donor contacted Operation Truth (optruth.org), an Iraq vets group, and gave Noel $18,500 through a nonprofit community organization, enough to cover rent for a year plus furnishings for his new digs.
Noel, his wife and their one-year-old son will stay for the first month in his one-room apartment in East Tremont. They will then move into a three-room apartment in Mott Haven and be reunited with their twin five-year-olds.
“It feels good. I’m excited about the situation,” says Noel, who is receiving treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder and is still looking for a job. “I’m enjoying the simple things in life, like being able to walk around in your house with your boxers on.”
Ricky Singh, director of the Homeless Veterans Reintegration Program at the Brooklyn-based Black Veterans for Social Justice (BVSJ) helped work on Noel’s case. While pleased with Noel’s good fortune, Singh told The Indypendent that about a half-dozen Iraq vets had come to BVSJ in the past two weeks looking for help. Singh expects the numbers to continue increasing. He says ultimately the fate of returning Iraq vets will depend on the government’s commitment to providing services like transitional housing and mental health care, not individual acts of charity.
“We’re finding resources for the war,” Singh says. “But we’re not finding the resources for the back end of the operation, which is taking care of veterans when they return.”