Under The Bridge

A Vietnam veteran struggles with poverty, internal turmoil after the war

Levi Harrington, a Vietnam war veteran severed in the infantry for nine years. Pomona, Calif.

Story and photos by Pablo Unzueta


Along the railways and sewage water system in the poverty-stricken city of Pomona, Calif., is a man with piercing blues eyes and a long braided beard that hangs at almost a foot long. Levi Harrington, a Vietnam War veteran served in the infantry for almost nine years. After the war ended, his memory had been bruised by the atrocious experiences of war. Harrington claims to have shrapnel in his stomach. “Our scout team was in cross-fire when a grenade went off inside the trench. I’m glad it didn’t kill me, but sometimes, I kind of wish it did,” he said.

Levi Harrington inhabits underneath the Temple Street bridge. Harrington claims he is happy to be alive. Pomona, Calif.

The guilt Harrington experienced still lingers within his conscience.
“There were a lot of things I regret doing. I admit, there have been instances when we had to kill. Sometimes, it seemed like they made us do it for the hell of it. ‘Nam’ was simply a hellish place to be in.”

Four decades later, Harrington resides underneath busy Temple Street where hardly anyone knows that there is life below commuting grounds. His graffiti-riddled home can be described as quiet, surrounded with tarp. Inside his tent are layers of blankets and next to it is a propane stove. During the winter time a cool breeze sets in. Although Harrington’s situation is unfortunate, he claims peace and gratification.

Levi Harrington talks on the phone. Pomona, Calif.

“After all these years of living on ground floors, I’m just glad I get to live another day. I have accepted my circumstances — it’s alright,” he affirmed. When Harrington is not around his home, he is found panhandling along the freeway exits and gas stations throughout Pomona and Glendora.

Harrington is hardly ever without his favorite drink — a “Four Loko,” an alcoholic-juice beverage, and a pack of Marlboro Reds. The bearded man has a daughter and a son who he rarely talks about. Only once has he briefly explained his relationship between them.

“My children haven’t seen me in a long time. If I were to face them, it would just be my daughter who lives in New York. Maybe soon I’ll train hop my way to the east coast — I’ve done it before. I just don’t think I can let my child see me in the state of condition I’m in.”

Substance is a publication of the Mt. San Antonio College Journalism Program. The program recently moved its newsroom over to Medium as part of a one-year experiment. Read about it here.