In almost every city there exists an individual that you may not know personally, but you have run across them. This week’s column is about such an individual. Some of you may recognize him by his zoot suits, slick red car, outstanding dancing ability or just his friendly overall disposition. Almost every person calls him Chico, but his legal name is Hercules “Chico” Butler.
I have personally known Chico for a number of years and have had many discussions with him about a multitude of personal problems he has encountered. He regularly talks about his deceased mother’s love and influence on his life. Some time ago we were discussing some of the problems he has encountered over the course of his 83 years, such as being incarcerated for 16 years for a felony he had not committed, spending three years in the army, decorated three times, honorably discharged and then the government denied him benefits that the government had sent him a letter stating that he was entitled not only medical benefits, but financial benefits that he should have been entitled to when he was discharged, and informed him he should go to the V.A. and fill out the paperwork.
He instantly went to the V.A., filled out the papers, and a month later he was informed that too much time had elapsed and he was not entitled to the financial benefits. Yes, Chico was faced with another his life’s setbacks. Chico’s life story is one of an untold number of difficulties that Black veterans have encountered. In my lifetime, my most vivid encounters with racism were my time that I spent in the army. I saw myself as an American soldier, but there were many incidents that occurred where I was treated as less than.