Disabled vet in Vail struggles to find home | VailDaily.com

Disabled vet in Vail struggles to find home

Steve Lynn
Vail, CO Colorado
Kristin Anderson/Vail DailyRossi Moreau, a Vietnam veteran who's lived in the valley for more than 35 years, says he is having trouble finding a new place to live for himself and his cats.

VAIL ” Rossi Moreau doesn’t want a fast sports car or a $1 million home ” just a modest home for him and his “kids.”

Since the spring, Moreau has been searching classified ads, talking to people and posting his number throughout town to try and find a one-bedroom apartment for $1,100 or less each month.

It has been tough.

“In the one-bedroom places I’ve seen, no pets ” and those animals have saved my life,” Moreau said. “They’re my family. There’s no way that I’m going to let my kids loose.”

So Moreau, a disabled veteran, worries that he and his cats ” Magicker, Tusafer, Ocelot and Iris-Marie ” may have to leave Vail, the only place, he said, that he can maintain his sanity, he said.

Moreau’s landlords are moving into his apartment while they try to sell their 5-apartment home in West Vail. He has to be out by Oct. 1 and he’s getting ready to leave the place where he has lived for eight years.

Moreau considers himself a casualty of the affordable housing problem, which the town has been talking about for the 37 years he has lived here.

If the town managed the problem better, he might have a place to live, he said.

“When I first moved here, you could have one job and live like a human being,” he said.

Moreau is a short, stout man with a shaved head and a giant gray-and-white handlebar mustache that hangs well below his chin. When first meeting him, his cheerful eyes and grin hide his troubles.

The 60-year-old Moreau might tell you about the emotional strain from two years in Vietnam in the late 1960s and the post-traumatic stress disorder he’s suffered since.

Moreau did not have time to deal with the tragedies he saw in Vietnam; he saw his fellow soldiers die and he has never been able to deal with his pain, he said.

Moreau has recurring nightmares, flashbacks and problems expressing his emotions, so he must live alone, said Darlene T. Hoffman, his former psychologist.

“He does not trust anyone, he’s always hyper-vigilant and would drive someone nuts,” said Hoffman, who is friends with Moreau.

Moreau is heavily involved with sports to “stay alive,” Hoffman said.

“He’s got days where he goes into a shell and cannot talk to anybody,” she said.

However, Moreau can be positive and lately he has been seeking spirituality and a meaning to life, she said.

Moreau said he takes drugs several times each day to fight anxiety and depression.

Due to emotional distress, Moreau also cannot work, he said. He forces himself to get out of bed and backpack, shoot his bow and arrow, fly fish and mountain bike ” all of which keep him sane, he said.

When Moreau cannot be active, he needs to be alone, he said.

Moreau also cannot drive at night, nor can he drive on Interstate 70 because it “freaks me out,” he said.

So Moreau only drives on the frontage roads to cross town.

“Everybody that knows me sees me as a really up person and I always seem to be on top of things,” Moreau said. “Well, you can’t see PTSD. But I deal with it every single day. Every morning when I get up, I have to battle.”

Moreau fell in love with Vail when he came here for a ski race. In his 20s after Vietnam, he moved here and since then, he has coached skiing and soccer and helped organize the first Vietnam veterans parade in Vail, he said.

“I’m very, very frustrated,” Moreau said. “I’ve given 100 percent to this town,” Moreau worked as a volunteer firefighter for several years and would clean the trucks and the fire station on Saturdays, said John Gulick of the Vail Fire Department. The men have known each other for 35 years, Gulick said.

“He’s just a very caring, loving human being,” Gulick said.

Gulick knows that it’s difficult for Moreau to live in the valley as a disabled veteran and hopes he can find a home, he said.

Moreau said he does not have many friends and he has no family. Three blue snow flakes tattooed on his face represent his deceased mother, father and brother.

He loves skiing, something his father taught him when he was two years old and living in New Hampshire’s White Mountains. He owns “20 or 30” pairs of skis and his favorite runs are Riva Ridge and International on Vail Mountain. He skis every day, he said.

“I’ll pop 30 feet of air on that last face near Pepi’s as long as I’ve got somebody clearing it for me,” he said.

He could never move to a city; his home is Vail, he said.

Moreau likes reading about the environment and he worries about the planet’s future and the pine beetles ravaging Vail’s forests.

He’s writing a book called “Screaming Across the Continental Divide.”

“It’s about my life, the people I’ve known and the adventures,” he said.

Take a brief tour of Moreau’s apartment and you’ll notice he likes to collect things: silver dollars, skis, cigars. He said he doesn’t drink, but owns at least a dozen beer mugs from Vail’s and Beaver Creek’s Oktoberfests, where he dresses in German clothing every year, he said.

The majority of his stuff remains unpacked.

Moreau often repeats that he hates to whine, but he’s scared he will have to move. In a tough housing market, Moreau gets only $2,300 a month from Social Security and the Veterans Benefits Administration, he said.

Still, he’s got hope.

“I’ve got a really good feeling that this is all going to work out,” he said.

Staff Writer Steve Lynn can be reached at 748-2931 or slynn@vaildaily.com.

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