CARROLLTON - Sgt. Andrew Hampton parachuted into Panama in 1989 and survived five tours in Iraq but there's little the U.S. Army can do to prepare him for his next fight.
"I just want to see my son grow up," he struggled to say, while fighting back tears.
Last week, doctors at the Dallas VA Hospital diagnosed him with gastric cancer. It's Stage 2, they told him, in the back of his stomach.
"Before this cancer, I was doing well," the 43-year-old reserve soldier said.
Facing the unknown now is unnerving. For Sgt. Hampton, a modest man, asking for help is almost humiliating.
"I...," he paused and looked away, "I cannot repay anybody right now."
After serving as a military policeman up until 2008, Sgt. Hampton returned to Iraq as a security contractor, after he was unable to find a job in North Texas. But he collapsed there in January.
He was placed on an emergency medical flight back to North Texas and now doctors here won't let him return.
As if the medical problems he faces aren't worrisome enough, bill collectors haven't been very forgiving.
"The way I'm going to pay the bills is through prayer," the single father said. "That's all I can do."
Sgt. Hampton is awaiting unemployment benefits.
His congregation at Covenant Church has offered assistance, including a card for gasoline, paying his water bill and restocking his pantry, while he looks for a roommate.
"I couldn't stop and cry about it," said Lori Birdsong, a friend. "I went into action."
Birdsong and her husband Mark already convinced an attorney friend to modify his mortgage for free which, if approved, will lower his monthly payments.
The couple is now rallying friends and raising money for a veteran in need.
"He needs America to stand up and say 'Thank you for serving for us. Thank you for saving our lives. Thank you for keeping us safe,'" she added.
Sgt. Hampton said doctors gave him five years to live with his stomach cancer. It's a sentence that hasn't broken his spirit.
An American flag that once flew in Baghdad is all Sgt. Hampton could offer such loyal friends like Lori and Mark, as the combat veteran now faces the most frightening fight of his life.
To help Sgt. Hampton email Lori Birdsong at: email@example.com