HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The Honolulu Police Department is investigating the death of a homeless Vietnam veteran who was discovered on Nimitz Highway early Tuesday morning.
Karen Decker says 65-year-old Linwood Earl Parker was like a father to her. She said she last saw Parker alive last Friday, Aug. 31.
"He'd come over and watch movies and we'd cook every day," said Decker.
Decker, 42, said she found Parker around 2 a.m. where he sleeps under the Nimitz Highway. Honolulu Police got the call around 6 a.m. Decker said her friend has been living in a crawlspace under Nimitz Highway for at least a decade, and on the streets for twice as long after the Vietnam War.
"I've tried for the last eight years to figure out how I can take him out," said Decker who's originally from Oregon. She told him, "You know there's more people worse in the world than you, that have suffered more than you and stuff, you got to let it go, you know, but that's hard."
Police don't suspect foul play. Decker believes he died in his sleep. She said Parker suffered from alcoholism and anemia and was hospitalized a few days ago for pneumonia at Tripler Army Medical Center. Moreover, she said he still suffered from the wounds of war.
"He was still in war," said Decker. "He'd have bad nightmares. He was there and it was still going on."
Decker said Parker didn't even want a butter knife near him, telling her he'd killed to many people during the war, and was afraid he'd hurt someone.
Public Relations spokeswoman Nadine Saik of the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific at Punchbowl confirms that Decker served 10 years in the Army and was in Vietnam.
"He got out as a Private," said Saik. But Parker's discharge status or "Character of Discharge" was unavailable.
"We do know that Parker did not receive a Purple Heart or a Medal of Honor," said Saik. "However, other valor awards may have been awarded, but we can only see whether or not he received a Purple Heart or Medal of Honor."
Any veteran can seek burial at Punchbowl, but there is an eligibility process. Officials say that's usually requested by next of kin or the funeral home.
Decker says Parker spoke of several estranged family members in Virginia, and may have two grown sons still living in the islands. She said Parker claimed their mother left him and took the children with her.
"I wish I could have taken him out of here and given him a home," Decker cried.
Instead, she tried to make one for him. She took us into her large roughly four foot crawlspace across from where Parker slept.
"I've got electricity in every room. A 40-inch TV. I've got a kitchen, everything," she proudly exclaimed. "VCRs, DVDs."
The main areas were as tidy as they could be and decorated with love for man she believed deserved some.
They traded in old batteries at Battery Bills every Sunday said Decker. And powered up their place from the small car batteries.
And though some could have blamed their country in such poor conditions, Decker didn't. She displayed a small flag in their living area for Vietnam veterans whom she believed were criticized during the war but never lost their pride.
A pride Decker showed her friend to the very end. She ran out to the Medical Examiner's van as they moved her friends body and unfurled a large American flag. In tears she draped it over him, while the staff and police detectives stood by.
And one of the most ironic parts about this whole story, is where Parker died. On one side of the freeway you can clearly see, a large green sign pointing the way to the Disabled American Veterans organization, and on the other side, a giant faded wall painted with an American flag and bald eagle in the foreground.