Building a new vision for a veteran's tomorrow
"My name is Robert, I am a U.S. Army veteran, I am 31 years old, and I am homeless. And I can tell you, this is not how I saw myself 10 years ago. I did not think that I would be living out of my truck. I planned on having a long career in the Army.
I grew up a military brat. It was a family tradition, and sense of pride for our family. I was born at Fort Bragg, and after my Mom completed her service, we moved around the country a bit. I lived in Florida, New York, and finally, we moved to Put-in-Bay here in Ohio.
If you haven't heard of it, it's a very small community.
Because we moved around so much, I didn't really have close friends. I didn't have a life-long friend like most kids do when they grow up.
When I graduated high school, I thought about enlisting, but I had a really good job. It was only a few years after 9/11, and although I felt the pull to join, I wanted to stay with my family.
By the time I was 21 years old, I felt like I was on my way. I had gotten married, moved with my wife to Michigan, and had gotten a really good job. Part of that job was building parts for military vehicles. It gave me a sense of pride and honor in how I was living.
A few years later, the company where I was working laid off a bunch of people, and I was one of them. I did look for a job, but couldn't find anything comparable in pay. I was disappointed in myself, and really struggling to find a way to contribute to my family.
That military pull began tugging at my heart again, and at my wife's suggestion, I finally joined. I was 24 years old and I knew from the second I enlisted that I found my true calling. After enlisting, I chose my mission of service an 88-K watercraft operator and moved my family to Virginia.
My experience in the Army was everything I wanted it to be. I volunteered for everything. I raised my hand to be the first for everything. I was training all the time, and learning what it was like to have a brotherhood of support around me.
I had responsibility.
I was a leader.
People looked up to me.
I had a network of friends, that I called my brothers.
I was happy.
About a year and a half into my service, my wife moved back home. I was away on missions a lot, and she just didn't take to living a military life. I was ok with it because at home, she had the support of family and friends to raise our daughter.
I continued on with my service for another year, and was more committed than ever to the military.
Not much later, we were on a mission in Turkey, when one moment changed my life, forever. I took shrapnel to my shoulder, and it just missed my spine.
After treatment for my injury, I took the PT test, and I couldn't finish it. I couldn't finish something that had come so naturally to me. My only options were to take a medical discharge or to stay enlisted on permanent disability. I knew I wouldn't be alongside my brothers, so I took the medical discharge.
I was 27 and my life plan was gone.
Things were not better for me at home. The transition back to civilian life was harder than I thought. My brotherhood of support was gone. I couldn't find a job, or a way to get back to my former life. Then not much later, my wife and I divorced.
I just didn't have the same motivation that I once had. Some days, I would just not go to work. And soon that became a problem, and then I lost my job.
For the past year, I have been living with friends, and when that wasn't an option, I was sleeping in my truck. I was hiding how bad things had gotten from my Mom and my family. My pride wouldn't let me ask for help.
A few months ago, my step-dad found me sleeping in my truck. He couldn't believe it. He brought me right to the doorstep of Volunteers of America. And it is where I live today.
Even today, I struggle with how this could happen. I had a plan. I had commitment. And I think about losing these things, and how it has changed me.
Since June I have been fighting my way back. I have been working with the staff of Volunteers of America. They are helping me find new hope and rebuild faith in myself. They are working with me to find a good paying job, and helping me to build a new life.
We are building a new vision for my future.
I spend as much time as I can with my daughter. She's amazing. And I have the support of my Mom and Stepfather.
I want to thank both of [them] for helping me and believing in me.
Most of all, I would not be able to [be] here today without the support of Volunteers of America. And I truly thank them.
I am looking forward to my tomorrow, and the day after that."
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