Stacy Robertson
Stacy Robertson
December 26, 2023 ·  4 min read

Couple Saves Life of Malnourished Homeless Vet, Discovers He’s Been Missing for 40 Years

You can’t help everyone, but you can help someone. People are always moving at fast paces, with places to go and goals to accomplish. There’s barely any time to notice that there are people around us who can’t fend for themselves. They need help, and no one has the time or energy to lend a hand.

Stephanie and Al Blackbird, an elderly Arizona couple got a chance to heal the world a few days ago in Scottsdale. They saved the life of a sick Vietnam-war veteran, Alan Vandevander.

The couple was at the grocery store when they noticed the poor old man clutching a 5-dollar bill. He was staring at a piece of candy, and they knew there was something wrong.

“We saw him just holding this five-dollar bill and wandering around,” Mrs. Blackbird wrote on the GoFundMe page that was later set up for him. “He didn’t look well… He looked lost, and I couldn’t walk away.

I couldn’t in good conscience walk away without at least checking on this man.” It warms our heart that there are still people like Stephanie Blackbird on the surface of the earth.

Connecting with Alan

The couple approached the old man to check up on him. He told them he wanted to buy some Life Savers because the sugar would hopefully keep him from passing out. The man didn’t ask for their help, but they couldn’t stop themselves.

“I was still concerned, and before we left the store, I found him again, and he looked very unwell,” Stephanie wrote. “I approached and asked if he needed help to find something.

Alan said he needed sugar because he felt weak from low blood sugar. “After getting him some candy, I realized he was skinny and needed more than candy. We got him a sandwich and some water, and got him seated while I visited with him.”

Stephanie began to talk with him, and she discovered he’d been living in the Scottsdale desert for over 20 years, with no one to cater for him. Her heart melted at his story, and she knew something concrete needed to be done for him.

Going to Alan’s desert abode

The Blackbirds parted ways with Alan that day, but he dominated their thoughts all night. They couldn’t stop thinking about how impossibly thin and malnourished he was.

There was no one looking after him, no one worrying about him. It was a miracle he was even walking and talking. On Christmas Eve, which was the following day, the couple had to go into the desert to look for him, following the directions he’d given them the day before.

After two hours of tediously searching, they came upon his camp home in the desert.

At first, Alan was unwelcoming and didn’t want their help. He’d been so used to being alone and rejected that it didn’t seem reasonable why anyone would want to help now.

The couple said soothing words to him. They gave it their best to make him relax, and thankfully, he did. The Blackbirds brought him food and several supplies, and he let them take him to the hospital to get proper medical care.

Reconnecting Alan with his family

The Blackbirds found out that Alan had suffered a heart attack at the hospital. He was malnourished, extremely thin and in a general state of ill health. He was admitted immediately because the doctors said he was literally at the brink of death.

Stephanie and Al slowly started to learn a lot about Alan. He was a veteran in the Vietnam-war; a veteran honored with a purple heart! He had family in Indiana, but he’d been unable to reconnect with them after his tours.

Growing up in Indiana with his sisters, he had suffered an abusive childhood and endured the murder of his mother. He’d been missing for forty years. Surely someone missed him.

The Blackbirds somehow managed to locate one of his sisters Julie, and he spoke with her over the phone. His family had assumed he was dead because forty years of searching and not finding is a long time.

“I started looking for him in 1990, and I kept coming across dead ends,” an emotional Julie said in an interview with Fox Carolina News. “I never thought I would hear from my brother again.”

Julie will be coming to Arizona this month to take her brother home. Alan’s been receiving medical care over the past week, and he’s on the right path to bouncing back soon.

  1. Amanda Thomason. 2019, January 6. Couple saves life of malnourished homeless vet, discovers he’s been missing for 40 years. Retrieved from
  2. Nicole Valdes. 2019, January 5. Couple reunites veteran with family. Retrieved from