Walk of Faith: A blind veteran finds his sight in paradise

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Mark, a veteran of Desert Storm, developed severe cataracts in both eyes, nearly blinding him, which caused him to lose his job, his housing, and his way of life.

Suddenly homeless on the Hawaiian island of Maui, Mark would walk 23 miles—one way—to the local VA center to try to get help with his almost non-existent vision. Then he would walk the same 23 miles back. He would go to sleep at night, wake up in the morning, and do it all again. Every day. For three years. 

What made him spend every day repeating this same, seemingly futile exercise? Watch Mark’s story to find out why and how The Salvation Army was able to help him through it. 

Below is a transcript of the video edited for readability.

Mark Saxon: I was an infantry officer in Iraq, Desert Storm. And I got out in 1991. Unfortunately, I was beginning to lose my vision from cataracts. And it covers over the eyes so you can’t really see out of the eye anymore. It got real cloudy in my right eye, I could see just a little bit, and I completely lost vision in my left eye.

You can’t read signs, you can’t make out people’s faces. I started bumping into things because I couldn’t see ’em. I really started having a lot of setbacks in my life. I wasn’t able to drive anymore. I wasn’t able to work anymore.

So I wound up becoming homeless. I was sleeping out in the bush or on the beach. I would get on the road and I’d walk to the Vet Center, which was in Wailuku. So it was from Lahaina to Wailuku and back. 

Envoy Kevin Nagasaki: That is actually 23 miles. One way! Twenty-three miles. Driving from Lahaina to Kahului, I seen him on the road. You could tell he was military, the way he had the backpack, the way he was dressed, whitey-tighty shirts tucked in and the cutoff jeans, you know.

Mark Saxon: And the object was for me to meet with somebody at the VA that I could talk to, to try to get some help with my vision. So I stayed close to where the railing was so I wouldn’t be near the traffic, but by the time I got back at the end of the day I was really tired. 

Envoy Kevin Nagasaki: But he was really faithful. That’s one thing I gotta admit about Mark Saxon; he’s really faithful. He was walking to the VA almost every day. 

Mark Saxon: I lost count. I lost count. We’re talking about a three year period that I was trying to get help from the VA. I had a little Walkman radio, and I used to listen to a Bible teaching every day; that’s how I actually started learning the Bible and I just kept repeating it, “Walk by faith and not by sight.” [Echoes]

I went to The Salvation Army church in Lahaina for a Sunday service there. 

Envoy Kevin Nagasaki: Then we asked him to read a Scripture and he brought his Bible and it was big print and he actually literally put it to his face, one eye, to read the Bible. 

Mark Saxon: The church prayed with me, in Jesus’ name, for a miracle. I didn’t know how that would come about. But I believed that God could change my circumstances.

The Salvation Army helped me with applying for my VA benefits, getting the copy of my discharge, that kind of stuff. And then shortly after that, The Salvation Army got a call that the VA wanted to fly me to Tripler Army Hospital on Oahu for cataract surgery. That’s when the breakthrough came.

They drained the fluid out of it, they did a surgical lens implant, when they take off the bandage, it’s blurry. Your eye starts to focus. Then it all comes in clear. Practically, it’s like the whole world just opens up again. When you haven’t seen for a long time, and then you get your vision back and it’s clear, it takes your breath away. 

Envoy Kevin Nagasaki: Key moment was when he got his license. I said, “What? This guy was blind!” I said, he can drive, he got his license, he passed the eye test, he did everything.

Mark Saxon: It was really clear to me that God had answered a prayer, because nothing before that had moved anything at all. I shared my testimony in Lahaina, then the word kind of got around. The Salvation Army offered me a job: Homeless Outreach Case Manager. I’ve been doing that ever since. We bring food, we bring hygiene, clothing, things like that. Basic needs. We’ll help ’em get into a homeless shelter, help with getting ID, getting employment. 

Envoy Kevin Nagasaki: We don’t care if you were an alcoholic, a druggie, it didn’t matter if you didn’t take a bath for two weeks! It didn’t matter. We still welcome you with love and care. 

Mark Saxon: People ask why, why they’re going through difficulties or trials, and oftentimes. I believe it’s because God’s preparing them for something. I didn’t really understand why I was going through what I was going through, and that was all part of His plan and purpose. Which I can see clearly now because if I hadn’t gone through that experience, I never would be doing what I’m doing now.

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