A Death in Missoula

by Rebecca Schmitz

Two Missoula men were charged Friday with deliberate homicide for allegedly stomping a 56-year-old Navy veteran to death on a walking path, apparently without provocation.

Like many of you, I opened the paper this morning, read the opening sentence of Tristan Scott’s article, and uttered a groan. Mr. Salcido, despite being homeless on occasion, has family here in Missoula. My heart goes out to them today. I’m not even going to try to guess what would cause two moral and mental defectives to murder someone like this; I don’t care. What I care about is that others in Mr. Salcido’s situation have a safe place to go at night. There are a number of shelters here in Missoula and across Montana. Please consider volunteering your time or donating money to one in his name.

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  1. JC

    I’ve had to counsel my daughter heavily on this. She is a student at Hellgate, and told me last night, on seeing alleged murderer St. Dennis’ face on TV, “Dad, I ride the bus to school with him every day. He seemed like just another kid.”

    As we talked about random violence in the community, and how the kids had been drinking and what that can do affect one’s behavior, I had to say “at least he won’t be riding the bus anymore. You don’t have to worry about him.”

    My sympathy goes out to Salcido’s family and friends. And I hope that Hellgate High School can effectively help the students to deal with this tragedy. Suddenly Missoula seems a little less safe, and violence closer to home.

  2. Jamee Greer

    Suddenly? You suddenly feel that Missoula seems a little less safe?

    “A 50-year-old Missoula man was bound and beaten early Tuesday, apparently by a pair of strangers he met at a downtown bar and invited home.”

    http://www.missoulian.com/articles/2007/05/08/bnews/br20.txt

    “Two high-profile felony assaults in the last month have sent tremors through downtown Missoula – and the impact is setting off alarms.”

    http://www.missoulian.com/articles/2005/10/21/news/local/znews04.txt

    “The trio of Grizzly players were among five suspects who were arrested on felony charges of robbery, burglary and aggravated kidnapping.”

    http://www.missoulian.com/articles/2007/11/13/news/local/news02.txt

    These are only three of the hundreds of links a google search on “Missoulian” and “beating” brings.

    I don’t understand why we see these unfortunate events continuing to happen in Missoula. The ramifications extend beyond the victims who are left severely injured or murdered. While survivors experience PTSD, cognitive difficulties and some attempt suicide due to related depression, the community suffers as we grow weary of our safety.

    I no longer walk with headphones when alone at night… this began after a good friend of mine had several teeth kicked out after a random, unprovoked attack downtown. Other friends began to carry mace and take self defense classes. I have been to countless survivor fundraisers and benefit concerts. It’s heartbreaking.

    To hear about the gruesome attack on the California Bridge and say that “suddenly Missoula seems a little less safe, and violence closer to home” really bothers me. I’ve never felt totally safe in Missoula ever since I moved here, almost four years ago. I know I’m not alone.

  3. JC

    I say suddenly, because it has affected someone close to me. And it happened very close to my home. One moment we’re eating dinner talking about senior projects. The next we see a neighbor’s face, and fellow student on TV, accused of murder. That’s the suddenness I’m referring to. As you point out, this incident is just another in a long string of violence in Missoula, and it touches all of us deeply.

  4. I knew Forrest Clayton Salcido. He was gentle, and while small in statue, huge in heart. Mr. Salcido was brutally murdered as he desperately tried to flee his attackers. I was so ill this morning that I almost could not leave the house, but here I write from my cluttered desk at the Pov.

    1 in 4 homeless people in the United States are veterans (while veterans make up only 11 percent of the general adult population).

    Your homeless veterans in Missoula are no different. (And, actually here it may be worse as the State of Montana has the highest number of veterans per capita in the nation.)

    At the Poverello Center, Western Montana’s largest emergency homeless shelter and soup kitchen, we serve hundreds and hundreds of homeless vets each year. There are many vets sleeping in our overcrowded bunks each and every night, 365 nights a year. They are men and women from all branches of services and representing many different wars. Elderly and middle aged men are most common. Many folks suffer from mental illness and physical disabilities. Some have only recently lost their jobs or their families. Some have been injured on the job, and they don’t have medical coverage. Their car has broken down. Some are much more down and out. They all have amazing life stories. Their problems are often complex.

    At the Pov we are seeing an alarming trend in the number of younger homeless veterans. Younger veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan, turning to the Poverello Center’s VA sponsored Homeless Vets Program for necessary services, mainstream resources, treatment and job assistance.

    I am writing because this trend does not bode well for our future.

    According to the Veterans Affairs Department, 1500 homeless veterans are from the current wars.

    It took about a decade for the lives of our Vietnam veterans to unravel to the point where this nation could no longer ignore their alarming visibility among our homeless populations. Speaking with our local vets, they believe that the intense, repeated deployments, coupled with this country’s extreme polarization about this war, leave our younger veterans in an extremely vulnerable state.

    As Executive Director of the Pov, I am asked to educate Missoulians about poverty and homelessness often. I am honored to do it. The faces of homelessness are diverse. I speak before civics groups, classrooms; you name it. But I have observed that many people seem to want to hear about homeless kids, homeless women, and other marginalized demographics. We serve the many diverse faces of homelessness at our downtown facility. There is no doubt that they each need unique and expanded resources. But when I start talking about the number of homeless vets in Missoula, I feel a visceral lack of interest or understanding of their complex barriers to housing and employment (For example, the reaction some in our community recently had to what was viewed as a sudden increase in the number of our chronically homeless citizens panhandling downtown; letters to the editor referencing “the unwashed”.) It frustrates me.

    These honorable men and women come home from horrific conditions, often without a job, often with strained family relationships, not to mention unspeakable injuries of the body and the mind. Some of these guys will tell you that they were not prepared at all to go back to a “civilian” life. Their money runs out. They stay in cheap motels. And they go to the Pov.

    The latest VA numbers tell us that the Iraq vets seeking help from homeless shelters are more likely to be women, less likely to have substance abuse problems, but more likely to have mental illness – mostly related to post-traumatic stress. Overall, 45 percent of participants in the VA’s homeless programs have a diagnosable mental illness and more than three out of four have a substance abuse problem, while 35 percent have both.

    As was outlined recently in the Missoulian, these trends are nothing new. Historically, a number of fighters in U.S. wars have become homeless. Todd DePastino, a historian at Penn State University’s Beaver campus, who wrote a book on the history of homelessness, found that in the post-Civil War era, homeless veterans sang old Army songs to dramatize their need for work and became known as “tramps,” which had meant to march into war.

    After World War I, thousands of veterans – many of them homeless – camped in the nation’s capital seeking bonus money. Their camps were destroyed by the government, creating a public relations disaster for President Herbert Hoover.

    The end of the Vietnam War coincided with a time of economic restructuring, and many of the same people who fought in Vietnam were also those most affected by the loss of manufacturing jobs.

    Which brings us to the early 1970’s and the birth of the Poverello Center. This community recognized a growing trend in local homelessness and they responded. The “Pov” was founded and is almost wholly sustained by every member of this community. We are not owned by a single church or by the government. In 2006, we had 19,000 volunteers. 68 folks a night sleep in the shelter bunks and up to 250 folks eat each day in the soup kitchen; or use the sack lunch program, clothing room, Partnership Health’s fantastic medical care and Western Montana Mental Health’s critically needed social workers.

    The Pov also runs a nationally recognized transitional housing program, the Valor House, which it operates with proven success, thanks to collaboration with the Missoula Housing Authority and the Veterans Administration. The Valor House has a waiting list of homeless veterans seeking admission into the program. It truly can break the cycle of homelessness (the program is consistently full at 17 veterans).

    In this time of obvious divisiveness about this war, please remember our homeless vets. There are so many of them down at the Pov. The Pov belongs to this community. It is yours. I urge anyone interested to come take a tour with me, have lunch and meet these brave men and women.

    (I am writing today to honor my Navy veteran father Mike Boldman who served in Vietnam, my Navy grandfather Guy Boldman who in served in World War II, my Army great grandfather Amel Boldman who served in World War I; my cousin Curt Boldman who leaves for Iraq this Christmas and my only brother Chris Boldman who is a U.S. smokejumper and now serves proudly oversees in the United States Peace Corps.)

    I pray for them, for the family of Forrest Clayton Salcido, and we all must pray for peace.

  5. Thank you very much for taking the time to comment, Ellie and JC.

  6. Jedediah Redman

    Good on ye James!

    And yes, lets pray, MS Hill. It has proven such an effective tool against ignorance and violence for the past what–gten thousand years or so.

    Better that we should recognize there are gradations of violence–instead of listening to smug windbag legislators proclaim every second year that all murder is the same

  7. Jamee Greer

    I’ll admit that I issued a silent prayer in my mind this morning after reading the story in the Missoulian… for Forrest Clayton Salcido, the 18 and 20 year olds who are responsible for the crime and everyone I know who could have been walking along that bridge at just the wrong time.

    IF Mr. Salcido was targeted as a homeless man or veteran isn’t clear. But there are frightening cases of violence directed at the homeless community and they are hate crimes… I’m not sure what the exact statistics are, but I remember reading about a homeless man that was beaten at the Warehouse on Spruce a couple years ago.

    Thanks for sharing your views, JC and Ellie.

  8. Jedediah Redman

    I suspect all homeless folks thank you for your silent prayer as well, Mr. Greer. It is a very small thing that most people do as a matter of course in such a situation. I suspect they have been doing it since the first hominid got stomped by some other hominid.

    My question is this.

    When do you expect all that praying is going to start paying off?

    Perhaps it is time to take another tack..?

  9. Jamee Greer

    There is always more work to be done, Jedediah.

    I do not think that either of the folks who’ve commented on their personal prayers in the face of brutality think that prayer alone is enough to stop the problem of violence, or homelessness.

    Perhaps you could share with the group what you do regarding violence prevention, or ending homelessness? I’d like to hear your views.

  10. Jedediah Redman

    Ol’ jed jus sits on the sidelines and second guesses the quarterback, the coach, and the referees, jim.

    Thats sort of what you were going for wasn’t it?

    Thing is–as most folks who’re light in the loafers recognize–the thing necessary now–what it will take–until everybody swallows a few smart pills is a recognition that such idiocy must be punished severely.
    So long as our legislation is done by homophobes and good ol’ boys–responding to good ol’ boys and homophobes–it will continue to be open season–for all of the square pegs in the rough trade–agaionst all of the square pegs of the meeker varieties…

  11. “Light in the loafers”? I think the last time I heard that phrase, it came from the lips of Don Rickles at Jackie Mason’s Friars Club roast.

  12. Jamee Greer

    Seriously? Light in the loafers?

  13. I also knew Forrest and I have had him over to my house for dinner two years ago….I hope that the kid’s that did this get their just reward….I made a video about homeless vets about a month ago…..
    <embed src=”http://www.soundclick.com/player/v2/videoPlayer.swf” FlashVars=”bandID=770088&vidID=39018″ quality=”high” bgcolor=”#000000″ width=”424″ height=”346″ name=”VideoPlayer” allowFullScreen=”true” wmode=”transparent” type=”application/x-shockwave-flash” pluginspage=”http://www.macromedia.com/go/getflashplayer” />

  14. Here is a direct link to the video…
    http://soundclick.com/share?vid=39018&bid=770088

  15. Jedediah Redman

    Sorry kids.
    Light in the loafers was a commonly used minor put down when I began to protest the notion of bias against peoples’ sexual preferences.
    That of course would have been not too long after Kennedy had been murdered; so I can understand it might sound a bit dated to the two of you…

  16. Oh, I’ve heard light in the loafers before…from men of my father’s and grandfather’s generation. No offense taken, Jed, but let us know when you plan on breaking out the ol’ “twenty-three skidoo”.

    Thanks for the link to your video, Allan.

  17. Jedediah Redman

    Not to worry MS Schmitz.
    I’ll try to keep everything pre-WWII from your eyes.

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