The streets of Washington D.C. are eerily empty at four in the morning on Saturday. The party-until-you-drop crowd has dropped; a few homeless hang out in the open-all-night McDonald’s on New York Avenue and even the all night CVS Pharmacy on 14th Street is quiet except for the sound of a vacuum somewhere in the empty aisles.
Over on Vermont Avenue – just two blocks from The White House – a lone figure stirs slowly in his Army bivy sack. He has been here since October 4, 2012 and there’s no indication he will be leaving soon.
On October 4, 2012, Forrest “Frosty” Bibbee knocked on the doors of The Department of Veterans Affairs asking to speak with someone about the erosion of veteran benefits. A bureaucrat who looked cast for the role by Hollywood told Frosty and his two companions that someone would be down to talk with them “in an hour”.
Shuffling back out to the sidewalk they decided to have a cigarette while they waited. Now countless packs of cigarettes and gallons of coffee later Frosty is still waiting.
While one of his friends gave up and went home to North Carolina, the other shuttles back and forth between home and Vermont Avenue bringing Frosty hand warmers, smokes and other basic supplies to help him survive the freezing nights on the sidewalk.
A stubborn and occasionally cantankerous Vietnam era Veteran, Frosty has stayed at his self-appointed post through a hurricane, inquiries from The Department of Homeland Security, questioning by the Washington D.C. Metropolitan Police Department and an invasion of ‘gutter punks’ – homeless street kids whose days consist of panhandling and nights consist of drinking until they pass out.
Through it all he has consistently told anyone that would listen that the vigil is not for himself or his friends, but it’s for all veterans everywhere who are being used up and thrown away by the very system they fought to protect.