PORTSMOUTH, Virginia (WAVY) – Money comes out and nothing comes in. It’s the cash flow crisis for John Whitehead, who lost his job just at the start of the coronavirus pandemic.
“It’s what’s left of my life,” Whitehead said recently as he opened the door to a storage unit near the apartment where he is staying with a family member.
“I’m not used to being like that. I’m used to being able to control what’s going on around me, ”he said.
He’s 65 and doesn’t want his past experience to be taken for granted. Whitehead has a very unique skill set – skills that he has acquired over a very long career.
He was a small engine mechanic – “I’ve always been very good at it,” he said – as well as a crane operator loading product into the hulls of ships. He also has experience in operating heavy equipment.
“Bulldozers, backhoes, front loaders, name it, I can make it work,” he said.
Whitehead was also a boiler technician in the United States Navy during Vietnam’s later years, but his life was derailed when the pandemic began and he lost his job as a mechanic at a go-kart center.
“During this time, my life was falling apart. My mother died, my father died and my wife left me, ”he said.
His last unemployment payment was at the end of last year, and like so many Virginians, he had no luck trying to reach the Virginia Employment Commission.
“I tried for literally eight months. Eight months in a row, every day, three, four, five times a day trying to call these people. I could never reach anyone, ”he said.
For now, Whitehead is riding his bike, trying to find money for a new clutch for his Honda 750 so he can get to work.
“It shouldn’t happen to anyone, let alone a veteran,” he said.
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