Steve Bozeman: Lynchburg Veterans Unite to Serve

by | Jun 2024

THE SCENARIO may sound all too familiar. You served your country in the military overseas for the past four years. When you return home, finding work brings frustration rather than a job. Your finances cannot cover your expenses, and you end up losing your apartment. The streets may end up serving as your home instead. What can you do? 

For the Lynchburg Area Veterans Council (LAVC) and its vice president, Steve Bozeman, the solution for homeless military veterans came through the home of a well-known local war hero. Bozeman is a Vietnam War veteran who served overseas from 1966 to 1967 as a helicopter door gunner and mechanic in the Marine Corps. He flew over 400 combat missions, was shot down, and earned two Purple Heart medals. 

Drive past Monument Terrace on Court Street in downtown Lynchburg any Friday at noon, and you will likely see Bozeman, along with 75 to 100 other veterans, honoring the fallen, waving flags of their particular branch of service, and greeting passersby. The rally at Monument Terrace exists for more than a gathering of military veterans. It’s a 23-year legacy that continues to grow in supporting our troops in harm’s way and providing a connection for the veterans who participate. Bozeman asserted that the rallies reveal “a camaraderie of veterans bonding together for a common purpose.”

To understand the tie-in between the Friday rallies at Monument Terrace and the LAVC, Bozeman offered a brief history lesson. Following the terrorist attacks against the United States on 9/11, Bozeman and 75 other veterans decided to hold a rally in support of U.S. troops deployed to Afghanistan. When the rally was over, a fellow veteran asked Bozeman if he would be back at Monument Terrace the following Friday for the next rally. When Bozeman hesitated, his friend reminded him that the following Friday was Dec. 7, the anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, in 1941. Bozeman said he knew then that the rally would become a regular event.

The LAVC was formed 10 years ago to help veterans who use wheelchairs get a ride to the Salem VA Medical Center. The LAVC continues to function as a nonprofit, and members coordinate efforts between the various groups for veterans in Lynchburg to meet the needs of veterans in a more efficient and organized manner. Over time, Bozeman joined each of the six organizations for veterans in Lynchburg to assist each one in meeting needs collectively. Bozeman considers himself a “maestro,” conducting both the rallies and the various groups’ efforts, working together.

Bozeman said that three years ago, the LAVC learned of a very pressing concern — there were homeless veterans in the “Hill City” who could not find housing. At first, Bozeman said, the organization filled the housing needs through other local nonprofits such as Miriam’s House and the Salvation Army. But, Bozeman explained, the LAVC wanted to provide housing completely on its own.

To the council’s surprise, the 115-year-old home of Desmond T. Doss came up for lease. Doss was a World War II Army medic who received the Medal of Honor for bravery, awarded to him for saving close to 100 wounded soldiers on Okinawa in 1945. Bozeman recounted that the LAVC jumped at the opportunity to lease the home. Once the LAVC signed the lease, three veterans moved in and found a new home.

“The good thing about it is that these guys — they have their own independence,” Bozeman pointed out. “They were able to work together once they got in, realizing the historical significance.” 

Each vet has his own bedroom with a common kitchen that serves all three. A year later, Bozeman added, the Doss home came up for sale, and the LAVC purchased it. Eight veterans have called the Doss house “home,” and today, two live there with one bedroom still available. The best news of all? Bozeman proudly proclaimed there are no homeless veterans in Lynchburg! 

Since ending his military service in 1972, Bozeman has run competitively — and he runs a lot! His races include over 300 5Ks and 10Ks, 100-milers, and various levels of triathlons. This year, Bozeman plans to run in three races, including the Marine Corps Marathon, for which he was inducted into its Hall of Fame in 2000. 

As he laces up his running shoes, Bozeman not only races toward another personal milestone but also toward a future where no veterans face housing insecurity in Lynchburg. GN 

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