Al Terr and Dennis Bacinello seemed destined to be friends.
“Al and I were both Airborne,” Bacinello said. “We were both green berets, special forces.”
They were both from the West Haven area, and at the height of the Vietnam War, Dennis and Al went off to Army training at Fort Benning.
“And there I met Al,” said Bacinello. “He was in the Army before me.”
They became friends, but the Army split them up. They went to Vietnam and served in different areas. In the decades after the war, they ran into each other a couple times, and then a couple years ago, Dennis and his wife moved into West Haven’s senior housing building called “Surfside.”
“So we came here. I ran into Al,” said Bacinello. “He said, ‘What are you doing?’ I said, ‘I live here,’ He said, ‘So do I.'”
Back together once again, they teamed up for a new mission: Helping homeless veterans get off the streets, ike Korean War vet Lanse Dowdell who suddenly lost him home.
“One day I saw him, and I said, ‘Lanse, what are you doing out here? You’re 87 years old. You’re a Korean veteran,'” said Bacinello. “He lost his place, his girlfriend went off.”
They helped get him into Surfside until Lanse passed away just last month. They spotted another homeless vet, too.
“He was sleeping in the parking lot in the back of the church in a van,” Terr said, and he went to a local housing official to get him a place in Surfside. “I said to him, ‘Look, this guy can’t be out there. He’s going to die from the cold or whatnot.'”
Neither he nor the two other vets that Terr and Bacinello say they helped get off the streets wanted to talk about it. When you’ve gone off to war, helped save the world, being homeless is not something you want to talk about, and Al and Dennis get that, because it happened to them.
“When I came back from Vietnam, I came back to an empty house,” said Terr.
While Terr was fighting in Vietnam, his parents moved away and they couldn’t reach him. Bacinello went through a rough patch before he met his wife. Now that these two old soldiers are back together, they have a new mission.
“So Al was homeless, I was homeless years ago, so we know what it’s like to be out there. No longer,” Bacinello said.
They don’t want any more veterans to go through what they did.