VIRGINIA BEACH - Willard Smith had five tours of duty in Vietnam as a Navy Seabee.
He turned to alcohol and ended up homeless. Decades later, he pours his efforts into helping homeless veterans in Hampton Roads.
Smitty, as everyone call him, is the executive director Vetshouse in Virginia Beach. The organization helps veterans get clean, get jobs and find stable housing.
"I have a passion for helping those who are less fortunate because that used to be me," he said.
In an early Memorial Day tribute, Dominion Virginia Power employees in Hampton Roads and across nine states put down their electrical tools and took up paint brushes and saws to help veterans' organizations.
At Vets House last week, volunteers paved a new driveway and did much-needed yard work and landscaping.
It was one of three projects in Hampton Roads that Dominion Foundation provided the labor and a $1,000 grant. The others: creating a therapeutic garden for the veteran patients at the Hampton VA Medical Center and building a fence and walkway at the Child Development Center at the Armed Services YMCA of Hampton Roads.
“Supporting veterans is an integral part of our mission year round,” said Max Bartholomew, Dominion’s regional manager of state and local affairs. “Many of our volunteers are also veterans. This is one small thing we can do to salute them for Memorial Day.”
Back at Vetshouse, Smitty hosted a cook-out to thank you.
“It’s the least I can do,” he said. “We’re really struggling in this economy. It’s nice to know veterans are not forgotten.”