Helping homeless veterans
Veterans’ Voices is a new column directed toward veterans and their families who have given so much to ensure our freedom in this country. This is an area where you may share your experiences, or read of other veterans’ experiences. We thank you for your service, and hope that you know how much you are loved and appreciated.
I met a veteran a few years ago that was homeless. He asked me for some money. I don’t give any homeless people money because I am afraid it would be used for drugs; however, I told him that I would buy his lunch, so he accepted.
He told me he had returned a few months prior from Afghanistan. I asked some questions to confirm he was not just giving me a sob story. He answered them correctly. He did recently return from deployment in Afghanistan; he was a combat medic. He told me that he attempted to transition back to the “world” from war. He came back and did all of the right things. He was married and had two children, a house, car, and a lot of friends. He started having multiple nightmares almost every night, scaring his wife. He apologized, over and over again, to her, and said that he needed help. She and their kids left the next morning and she said to let her know when he was better.
He knew he had to see somebody, so he went to the Veterans Hospital and told the doctor about his nightmares. He also explained the story about his wife and kids leaving. They made an appointment with a regular doctor, and he left. He went back home. He had nobody to call. His wife called all of his non-veteran friends and told them what transpired. He called his other extended family, and they would have nothing to do with him.
He started to drink and do drugs. He ended up in jail, time and time again for drinking and driving and fighting. Then they repossessed his car. He lost his driver’s license; then they took his house. So, he ended up with nothing. He forgot all about the doctor appointments due to his drinking and his drugs.
He was out of money, no house, no car, no family, no friends, and “life” was crashing down all around him. So, he ended up on the streets to fight for himself and keep going. He told himself that he would not do any more drugs or drink any more alcohol.
We spent more than five hours in that restaurant, just talking. I made some calls and found a place for him at least to have a roof over his head until I could think of something. I visited him every day and brought him food and a small TV to help occupy his day and nights.
I brought him clothes and got him set up at the VA hospital psychologist and regular doctor to start him on some medication since the hospital did diagnose him with extreme PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder).
I have been working with him for well more than a year. No drugs and no alcohol. He then got a good job in maintenance facilities, working with a buddy of mine. He rented a room from him since he was looking for a roommate. My buddy told me that he was a very clean and nice person. Always trying to help. My buddy also knew of his past problems.
After a year or so, this veteran got offered a job in Sacramento as a maintenance supervisor, making four times what he was, and with all of the benefits. The place he worked with my buddy knew that they could not even come close to what he was offered in Sacramento. They would miss his work habits and ethics.
Fast forward: His wife still won’t come around him, however he can see his kids once in a while. He is saving money to purchase his own home. He is driving a 2-year-old car. Still not drinking and no drugs. I had lunch with him a few weeks ago and met his new girlfriend. He also told her of his past. He still suffers from PTSD, and knows he will always suffer from it, but it is manageable. He knows that PTSD is a disease. Sees his doctors twice a month to keep on track.
He is a different man today. Even got a glow to him.
He left, holding hands with his girlfriend. He has reacquainted with his extended family now. Sees them on weekends. I asked him what he and his girlfriend like to do on weekends. He said “I like to just sit around with her next to me. Watch movies and eat popcorn. We go on drives to look and dream what our house will look like in the near future.”
He told me that his girlfriend’s father was killed in Vietnam. She asked me, when they get married, if I would do the honor of walking her down the aisle. Wow.
He has mentioned to me that he owes me so much. I told him he does not owe me anything. All that I did for him was not a hand-out or charity. I let him use the clothes and things that I bought him for the time being. Now, some day, he will have to pay it forward and help others.
The reason I wrote this story is to prove that you can not judge people by what you see. You have to look for the good in people and do what you can to help. Someday, that could be you or your family member that could use some help.
Any questions of comments, email me at AboutVets@yahoo.com.
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— Royal D. Goodman, U.S. Army/Vietnam,
1st Cav/9th Infantry