By Micha Green, AFRO Washington, D.C. Editor, [email protected]
After years of struggling in poverty and living in a dilapidated house, Pfc. Thomas Pressley, who served in the Korean War, received a particularly special Veterans Day gift- a renovated home.
A North Carolina native, Pressley was drafted into the U.S. Army in 1951, and served in the 75th Field Artillery Battery C in Korea, earning the Korean Service Medal with two Bronze Stars during active duty. Before being honorably discharged in 1953, Pressley earned the rank of Private First Class.
As a civilian, he ended up in Washington, D.C. and did janitorial work at the U.S. Naval Medical Center in Bethesda. In his spare time, Pressley enjoyed working on automobiles and on home improvement projects. Yet in old age, the Korean War veteran had a difficult time staying afloat.
According to his nephew Darryl Wallace, Pressley, 90, was victim of elderly financial fraud, with someone having stolen all his life’s savings.
“I know he had over 600 grand ten years ago, but zero now, Wallace told NBC4 News.
Last year, Pressley was starving and in desperate need of help, so he went to the police station and begged for assistance from Sgt. Juanita Eccles.
“He comes in and he just says, ‘Please, please, can I get some help,’” Eccles told NBC4.
She bought him food with her personal money, but when she got home she said his house was a bigger issue.
Photos shown on NBC4 revealed Pressley’s house in complete disrepair with the walls and floors falling apart.
“The mold was higher than your hip. And the floors you couldn’t walk on because you’d fall through. The contractor went upstairs and said ‘the toilet is sinking through the floor,’” Eccles added. After seeing his house, the police sergeant immediately worked to save the day.
Eccles teamed up with D.C. Council member Brianne Nadeau, Purple Heart Homes, an organization that assists veterans struggling with housing insecurity, Comcast and Home Depot to repair Pressley’s home, and on Veterans Day, the 90-year-old walked back into his home of 56 years.
“This is a godsend. Money can’t buy this when someone has that kind of love,” Pressley told NBC4. “I feel like this is part of heaven on earth.”