U.S. Army Veteran Andrew has a smile that brings joy to all who see him. His quiet, joking manner puts everyone at ease.

But Andrew’s life has been anything but easy. He’s felt the cold suffering that comes from great loss. He experienced a time when veterans returning home from war were not greeted as heroes. He’s been weighed down by the depression of losing a child and found drugs and alcohol as the answers to his pain. He didn’t realize it at the time, but Andrew was on a lifelong journey to find hope and restore his faith in God.

“I let myself go. I lost my wife, I lost my family, I lost my businesses – because I turned to drugs and alcohol. I thought it was self-medication for my suffering. It was like I had a death wish.”

As he continued on this path, he became homeless. There were countless nights Andrew lived under a bridge, in a tent, or in a cardboard box. Sleeping under a bridge, Andrew remembers being beaten and robbed of what little he had.

“I felt alone and abandoned.”

Then one night, Andrew found himself busting through the emergency room doors of a nearby hospital in severe pain. He had no recollection of how he got there, but it was a good thing he did. He threw his hands up to yell for help, fell over, and blacked out.

When he woke up, he felt grateful to do so as he learned that he died for eight minutes and was brought back to life. His ongoing “self-medication” had given him a heart attack. He was thankful to be alive as he learned that he was only using 10% of his heart. Andrew felt like a walking miracle.

He knew he had to make changes in his life. “I could feel God telling me, ‘Pick up your cross and follow me, I’ll take care of all your needs.’”

Andrew first went through treatment for substance use disorder, so he was no longer relying on drugs and alcohol to relieve his suffering.

Through Veterans Affairs, Andrew found a new doctor with whom he felt a true connection, and he wept as the doctor put his hand on him to pray for his life and safety after his pacemaker surgery.

Medical staff supported and treated Andrew for his physical ailments, but he still needed help finding a place to live.

He put his trust in God to get him where he needed to go.

And as Andrew will tell you, God was certainly guiding his path to Volunteers of America Ohio & Indiana.

“For some reason when I walked through the doors of the VOA, something told me I was in the right place at the right moment.”

Today, Andrew is living on his own in a housing community just for veterans, close to the hospital so he doesn’t have to worry about transportation for his doctor’s appointments. His lifestyle changes have translated to an increase in heart function, now up to 17%. He lost everything when he was homeless, so he received help to furnish his new home, and is now surrounded by friends for whom he cares deeply.

“There’s a lot of people out there who are suffering inside. It’s made a world of difference being here with other veterans because we were lost. And now we depend on each other.”

Andrew feels a deep sense of gratitude for the people who helped him get to where he is now. He also feels gratitude for the second chance God has given him, and he has no intention of wasting it.

“This place is paradise, and it feels good. I’m blessed to be here because of VOA”

Help more veterans like Andrew find the love and support they need to thrive. 

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