He died alone.
Clean and content, secure, safe, and alone. His girlfriend, housekeeper, young companion preferred his monthly retirement check to him, and claimed she couldn't afford to travel to the Veteran Administration Hospital to say goodbye or see him one last time.
No more abuse and no more fear, no more overriding concern that no one would care. He settled for less than nothing in a back room of a home and a little bit of liquor, and no one to save him from himself.
in the end, the official system worked. The Veteran Administration officials, the Adult Protective Services, Guardian Ad Litem Attorney, and even the judge found time to create a temporary emergency guardianship so the doctors and nurses and aides could make him as comfortable as possible.
But sometimes bad love is better than no love; false illusions better than empty reality and the sound of folks who pretend to care better than the silence of safety.
He died surrounded by compassionate strangers and his equals, other old men and women, basically forgotten by the country they served, and without anyone else to care.
Perhaps he deserved this. Perhaps he was once cruel and inconsiderate and drove away those he should have kept. Perhaps he worshiped money instead of people, or perhaps the wartime memories warped him for civilian life, perhaps, perhaps not. In the end, his unknown past didn't matter; money didn't matter.
Safe, secure, and clean, content with the paid staff and the unpaid kindness of strangers, he died with a smile on his face.
The Veteran Administration's representative buried him in a store-bought suit carried on a wave of trustee money and remaining government benefits.
No one claimed the flag draped on the coffin.