Local airman loses home and possessions in theft and fire on Memorial Day

James Pate standing outside his fire-damaged home.

On Monday, Airman (E4) James Pate of the Air National Guard for the 117th unit in Birmingham received a phone call. The caller told Pate that his house was broken into and then set on fire. At first, Pate did not believe it was true, but when he arrived to the house on 14th Avenue, the unthinkable became a reality.

"It was a big shock," Pate said. "It was something I have never seen in my lifetime. For it to happen to me, it was something you would have never seen coming. I never thought it could happen to me, especially on a day where we celebrate our vets."

Various electronics and other items were stolen, and other items un-salvageable.

Mark Davis, a Navy Veteran who is the founder of Vettes 4 Vets and a member of the Hoover Veterans Committee got a Facebook message from a fellow board member about what happened. When he heard about what happened, he knew that something needed to be done. He contacted other board members and approved a $1,000 check for Pate.

That was just the beginning.

"All I had to do was tell them what this young man had lost and what we needed to do," Davis said. "Everybody I have talked to has said, 'I am going to step up and do something,' either money, clothes or furnishings, anything. Everybody has said yes of who I have talked to."

A local store will be giving Pate a queen-sized bed set. A gentleman offered to furnish Pate's kitchen along with much more. Another group is helping Pate find a new apartment, and a veterans group will be renting a truck to help move Pate's items into his new apartment.

Pate said he is still in awe of all the support. He added that this experience taught him a lifelong lesson.

"It has given me a learning stone that if I see somebody going through the same thing, I know how to reach out to him," Pate said.

"You have heard the saying, "if you see something say something," Davis said. "A lot of people will tell a veteran, 'thank you for your service.' That is words. It is really about action, so what I tell people is if you see something, do something. Go help a veteran. Do not just say thank you for your service, go do something for him."

On Wednesday at Hendrick Chevrolet, Vettes 4 Vets will be giving Pate a check for $1,000 at 10 a.m.

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