SHREVEPORT, La. -- William Ford jokes that he arrived in Shreveport with matching luggage -- two grocery bags. Everything he had was in them. Everything else he had in what was a very prosperous life -- and a family -- he'd lost due to alcoholism and gambling.
But now the Army veteran has found a way to serve again, and make a Christmas wish.
William makes daily rounds at Overton Brooks VA Medical Center, delivering books or magazines to patients. Or he just pays them a friendly visit, veteran to veteran.
"I love to talk to people in their rooms. Especially the people that don't have anybody. And I know exactly how they feel," the homeless veteran says.
"It's rewarding. I get emotional about this," William says about his effort at the hospital. "I'd pay them -- if I had any money at all -- I'd pay them to let me do this. I really would."
William says he once had all the money he needed. He was a millionaire in the car business in Monroe. But he lost it all -- including his family -- because of his vices.
Ironically, a drunk driving crash saved his life because a doctor at the hospital discovered that William's body was shutting down from too much drinking.
"There's no question about it. I'd be dead," William says.
William would wind up at the VA center in Shreveport about this time a year ago. They not only took care of a list of physical maladies, but also introduced William to Alcoholics Anonymous. And he's completed a back-to-work program at the VA. That gives the 70 year old vet a chance at a paycheck again -- and hopefully, something more -- once he leaves a homeless shelter for veterans.
"My hope is just to be a normal, try to get a relationship with my children is my number one priority," William says "And try to live a stable life and do service work and help people.
"I don't have to be a millionaire anymore," William added. "I've been there. I don't need that. I don't need it. Some people can handle it. I can't handle it. Elvis and I couldn't handle it."
William says he has a son and daughter. He says his son is in the Air Force.
William was in the Army for a couple of years at the end of the Vietnam War.