By Dorothy Tucker

(CBS) – On Saturday, the nation honors our veterans.

Nearly 40,000 of them are homeless, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Of those, 949 of them are in Illinois.

READ MORE: Chicago Weather: Winter Weather Advisory Issued For Illinois, 1-3 Inches Of Snow Possible

Bob McMahon used to be one of them, until someone stepped in for him. Now, he’s stepping up to bridge the gap for other homeless veterans in need.

Nearly 150 veterans visit the food pantry at Hines VA Hospital every week. They come for much needed supplies. But they also get a bonus: McMahon.

The Marine veteran volunteers at the pantry every Thursday, helping to distribute meat to food pantry recipients.

“I’m what they call the meat man here,” he tells CBS 2’s Dorothy Tucker.

READ MORE: Former Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel Leaves For Japan Ambassadorship

But to the vets on the receiving end, Bob does much more than hand out meat. He makes the recipients feel special, observers say.

He spent three years on the Chicago River, homeless, living in tents, until a friend brought him to Hines.

“If it weren’t for the VA … I’d still be out in the tent,” he says.

The VA helped Bob find an apartment he could afford on his disability check.

“This hospital helped me so much. The least I can do is turn around and give back,” he says.

MORE NEWS: Center For COVID Control Sites Will Remain Closed After Complaints

Bob also volunteers every week at a local church. He credits the church for helping him survive winters in the tent by providing warm clothes, blankets and other cold-weather gear.

Dorothy Tucker