Tuan Tang was a month from eviction when the Department of Arizona's Veterans Serving Veterans program, run by the 11th and 12th districts, stepped in to help a fellow veteran in need. Tang is photographed on Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018, at American Legion Post 1 in Phoenix. Photo by Lucas Carter/The American Legion.

Dishing out blessings to veterans in need

Tuan Tang is giving thanks to The American Legion this Thanksgiving.

The 14-year Army veteran, who is battling a rare form of cancer, was days away from eviction when a program run by the 11th and 12th districts in the Department of Arizona came to the rescue of Tang, his expectant wife and their five children who are all age 7 or younger.

On Oct. 31, the Tangs received an eviction notice from their landlord. He reached out to Alfonso Aranda, who is the chairman of the districts’ Veterans Serving Veterans program that provides financial assistance to veterans in need.

“He worked the case and took care of everything within a matter of four days,” Tang said. “He moved very quickly with a lot of gusto. I'm extremely grateful for his organization and The American Legion. A four-day turnaround is next to impossible anywhere.”

The program covered the Tangs’ rent, allowing them to “breathe.”

“We could breathe for a second,” Tang said. “With everything — the cancer, very little family assistance as far as the financial end is concerned, and barely any of the emotional reinforcement aspects. It’s essentially me and my family. And so, to show that kind of compassion, I can truly tell when people put their whole heart into something. Al puts his whole heart into what he does and he does it well. It means that we can breathe, even if it's for another month.”

Since 2015, the Veterans Serving Veterans program has provided more than $55,000 worth of aid to veterans in need. When a veteran faces a dire situation like Tang, the program generally covers one month of rent, utilities or a similar bill.

“We started this committee to raise money to assist veterans in need,” Aranda explained. “We assist them in any way, humanly possible, so that they can continue in life.”

He leads a committee of dozens of veterans who raise the funds and run the organization. A group of seven committee members evaluate the need of the veteran and then quickly vote to approve the funding. Aranda coordinates the votes by text to speed up the process.

Aranda, a member of American Legion Post 41, sees his role as a way to give back.

“I'm a Vietnam vet, and since I got home, as everybody knows, we weren't well liked,” he said. “Very hard to get a job, very hard to do anything here. And, we're here to make sure that that does not happen to our veterans anymore. It’s an honor serving them.”

Henry Cox is another veteran who received support from Veterans Serving Veterans.

His veterans disability was cut a few months ago and he was getting behind in bill payments. “I was robbing Peter to pay Paul,” he explained.

Cox had his car repossessed and he struggled to pay his rent. One day he came home to find his gas had been shut off due to missed payments.

That meant that Cox, who cooks professionally and at home, could not use his stove. It also meant he had to go to his ex-wife’s home to shower.

Aranda’s program came through, covering one month of rent and the gas bill for Cox.

“It released a lot of pressure off of me,” said Cox, who added that he can now keep up with his bills. “I'm not a very young man, so there's a lot of pressure. I'm not used to not cooking, because I cook every day.”

He gives thanks to Aranda and Veterans Serving Veterans.

“They're a great organization," Cox said. “It’s great to have a group that says they're out there to help veterans, actually help veterans.

“I think it's a blessing.”

Tang agrees, noting some of his other blessings. Two of his children were conceived after he was told that he would not be able to father more kids. And the cancer? He was cleared about two months ago.

“That was a four-year battle,” he said. “That was another breath. The disease didn't return. But unfortunately it's a 70 percent recurrence rate, so I will always be fighting it for the rest of my life. And so, one battle at a time. But this was a victory on this end.”

Both Tang and Cox wish that Veterans Serving Veterans will grow to help others not only throughout Arizona but nationwide.

“I would encourage every veteran to help,” Tang said. “If it's not assistance you need, give assistance. Help this organization grow to what it deserves.”