A disabled WWII veteran was at risk of falling through the cracks. Then other Texas vets stepped in

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U.S. service members salute the American flag during a retreat ceremony Oct. 2, 2014, at Little Rock Air Force Base, Ark. The four military members represented each branch of the U.S. military and assembled to show solidarity

(U.S. Air Force.Airman 1st Class Harry Brexel)

EULESS, Texas — Six months ago, Larry Fromme rarely left his apartment, and he worried that he might get evicted as he struggled to pay his rent and buy groceries.

Fromme, 80, is a disabled veteran who served in the U.S. Army as a private first class in Germany at the height of the Cold War. He was diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder, and said he often had nightmares about serving in a stressful environment.

Fromme recalled what it was like to be isolated and the difficulties of finding people who understood his struggles.

"I was down in the dumps," he said. "I was looking for people to talk to."

Fromme described how it was difficult for him to leave his apartment as no one thanked him for his service, although he wore his cap displaying the words, "disabled veteran" when he went shopping.

But now life is getting better for Fromme as he regularly meets with veterans who understand the stress of serving in the military and what it is like to be ignored.


The help began when Michelle Potts, the manager at Fromme's apartment complex, saw his struggles.

"I have a soft spot for Larry," she said.

Potts said she searched Google for organizations that could help Fromme get his finances in order and to find other veterans who could spend time with him.

Several organizations joined forces to help Fromme, including the United Way of Tarrant County Veteran Options Navigator Program and TXServes-North Texas, a network of organizations serving veterans and military families. The veteran options program enrolled Fromme in programs to help him with his finances. The TXServes-North Texas network put him in touch with The GallantFew, an organization that works with veterans who are isolated.

On a recent Friday afternoon, Fromme laughed and joked with his new friends, Zach Cabellos and P.K. Kelley, who are with Gallant Few and served in Afghanistan after 9/11.

Ceballos lives close to Fromme and said he often stops by to see his friend, taking him out to eat and to a monthly veterans breakfast in Trophy Club. He even helped Fromme buy a new pair of cowboy boots.

"We are here to prevent isolation. In the military, we take care of each other," Ceballos said.

Fromme got out his scrapbook filled with photos and articles from the military newspaper Stars & Stripes recounting his experiences in Europe.

Fromme, who served from June 1962 to November 1964, said he was always on "high alert" because of the Cold War.

"We drilled nonstop, even in knee-deep snow," he recalled. "We are trained to follow orders, in rain and snow, you go at a moment's notice."

Fromme said he was injured when he was loading crates of 30-pound shells in to an ammunition truck. One of the crates landed on his foot, breaking his ankle. He injured his ankle for a second time last year.

When Fromme was discharged, he lived in several states and held a variety of jobs, such as driving a truck, picking fruit and working on a cattle ranch in east Texas.

He moved to Euless in 1994 when the cattle markets weren't doing well.

Fromme said he was married three times, but has no children and no family in the area.

He said that he is grateful people reached out to help him. Although Fromme didn't serve in Vietnam, he said he faced similar reactions when people saw him in uniform.

"They spat on me and told me to throw my uniform in the trash," he said.

Ceballos and Kelley said they saw the experiences of veterans who served in Vietnam and that the needs never change once soldiers come home. People are not educated about veterans and their needs, Ceballos said.

"We can do more," Ceballos said.

———

©2019 Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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