In Six Words: One way out. Reality then reconstruction.
Brenton wanted to do more with his life than getting into trouble, and at just 17 and a recent high school graduate, he realized he was quickly heading down the wrong path. As a way out, he enlisted in the Army and set out to change his future.
“Things were real out there,” he said. A far stretch from living at home, now active in Operation Iraqi Freedom, Brenton faced the realities of war every day. “I lost friends, close friends and men from my unit and I didn’t know it then, but I also lost myself.”
When Brenton came home 4 years later, he was changed. He had a hard time communicating with his family. “They didn’t understand me anymore, what I have seen or experienced. They didn’t have that mindset.” Brenton moved from house to house and in an out of friend’s houses. He couldn’t get ahead. He couldn’t figure out why he was so angry. He was isolating himself from his friends and family, he avoided large crowds and was sinking into a deep depression. “It was a difficult time for me.”
Something as simple as a broken furnace was what finally put him out on the streets with nowhere left to go. He had exhausted all of his resources and turned to the VA for help. He was immediately put into therapy for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and he hoped that things would get better. The day-to-day stress of living life outside the military was taking its toll on him, even though he was in therapy. PTSD had a grip on him and he needed to learn some basic coping mechanisms.
Enter Volunteers of America of Greater Ohio. Brenton, with no home to go to, and no money to get his own home, moved into the Veterans Resource Center. This was a bigger challenge than he thought. “I was stuck in my ways and independent. I suddenly had to follow rules that at first didn’t make sense.” What happened surprises him even today.
When Brenton looks back through this past year, he realizes he has learned so much. Among the most important things is that it takes a lot to ask for help, and it takes courage to accept it. Less than a year ago, Brenton was suffering from homelessness, PTSD and in a downward spiral. After help from Volunteers of America, today he is living in his own home and is going to college. He found people who understood him, including fellow veterans from different wars and conflicts, and in doing so, he found strength and determination. “Believe me, I was without hope, I was lost. To me, Volunteers of America is hope. None of this would have been possible without their help. They are a part of my family now.”