Set Adrift In Houston, WWII Vet Joins Those Facing Homelessness : Harold Utsler Has Two Wars In His Past, But Has No Idea About His Future | Houston, Texas | Chron
The last time Harold Utsler felt this lost it was 1945 and he had just accepted an honorable discharge from the Army Air Corps.
Utsler had survived 50 death-defying missions over Europe as a top turret gunner and flight engineer on a B-24 bomber crew. He was in his early 20s, single and had no idea what he wanted to do with the rest of his life.
“I was so confused,” he said.
More than half a century later, that unsettling sense of being adrift has returned.
Utsler has outlived most of his friends and family. Now he spends his days watching television alone in his threadbare room at Midtown Terrace Suites, a housing facility for veterans.
He heats frozen dinners in a microwave, and naps as the air conditioner gurgles under the window. Sometimes he drives to the supermarket in his 2004 Hyundai Elantra, just to have something to do.
Mostly, the 90-year-old World War II veteran ponders how he ended up at the Main Street facility, and where his life is headed.
“I say my prayers and then I get to thinking about, you know, ‘There’s people in this world a lot worse off than I am,’ and then it cheers me up a bit,” he said. “So I just play it one day at a time. That’s all you can do.”
Utsler sought help from the Department of Veterans Affairs for the first time three months ago.
A falling-out with relatives had left him stranded at Hobby Airport, sleeping in a chair, without any transportation or place to go. An airport employee urged Utsler to go to Houston’s Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center, and arranged a van to take him there.
He is one of a handful of World War II veterans in Houston who have found themselves adrift late in life, at risk of homelessness.