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."
With your support, we can help others, like Robert, continue their journey towards restoration.
You can be the change our community needs: Now is the time.