Wear Red: A Story of Hope
Back in the 1960s, the US Navy began one of its premiere special ops programs, the Navy SEALS.
The Navy was looking for a unique combination of skills and personality to make up those first SEAL Teams. The Vietnam War was about to begin, unconventional warfare was the name of the game, and the now 67-year-old Denny Enyeart fit the bill.
"I was a young man when I became a SEAL. I was 19-years-old," said Enyeart.
Enyeart who was a 1st Class Petty Officer was a member of the second group of Navy SEALS this country had ever trained, and that was 1961. "In my time as a SEAL we were trained specifically just to kill - that was the job," said Enyeart.
For generations, his family had served in the military. Enyeart was raised to do the same, but also said SEALS had a unique mind set. "War was glorious. You gotta be a soldier to be a hero and the only way you can do that is to get into a battle and win. And that was our collective attitude."
When he was honorably discharged in 1968, he said coming home was confusing and difficult. "It messed my mind up. I had a harsh time with post-traumatic stress disorder. When I was 26-years-old my hair was already turning white."
For the next 35 years, he got married (and divorced twice), had two boys, and worked different blue-collar jobs. But by the early 2000s Enyeart was homeless. "I could not settle down just to a normal job like being a store clerk, a bus driver. I had a hard time communicating with a regular civilian person, I really did."
In 2010 he learned about Columbia Basin Veterans Coalition, a non-profit helping vets get back on their feet. Program Director Mike Brown says Enyeart was instrumental in getting the Wagenaar-Pfister Home built in 2011, a transitional home for veterans.
"Giving him things to do and jobs to do gave him a sense of independence. He has a lot of skills that we wouldn't have even known about. And since he's up there in age, it gave him a solid sense of purpose," said Brown.
But just as Enyeart was finally putting the past behind him, he learned he had stage 4 prostate cancer. "I was deluged with Agent Orange, crawled through it, slept in it, and ate it, drank it. That's why I got cancer."
Today, Enyeart lives at an assisted living home in Kennewick. And despite his terminal illness he remains grateful. "I see other people here that are a whole lot worse off than I am. People with alzheimers and dementia, I can't really complain."
He spends his time in this garden, reading to other residents, and helping whenever he can. Rosemarie Sharff the daughter of one such resident says he's been a godsend. "Anything that anybody needs, Denny is just right there to help. He is really a wonderful man," said Sharff.
Enyeart says he knows he doesn't have much time, but he's made peace with his past. "If I had it to do over again, I would do it. Everything that I've done... yeah it's been a good life."
Enyeart's records are sealed, to this day. As for the war parapharnelia... the medals, dog tags, uniforms and photographs... they no longer exist because of his homeless status for multiple years.