I joined the U.S. Army National Guard when I turned 18. I was deployed to Saudi Arabia in 2002 to guard a patriot missile site after the tragedy of 9/11. I was then deployed to Baghdad, from 2004-2005 for Operation Iraqi Freedom. I was a VIP Convoy Escort. I experienced combat first-hand and dealt with mortar fire, being ambushed, and the threat of Improvised Explosive Devices.
I earned a Combat Infantry Badge and volunteered to help relief efforts in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. I searched for casualties, set-up check and traffic control points and also ensured survivors had food, water, and shelter. After Katrina, I deployed back to Baghdad and was part of a Military Police unit. On my last day, there was a fire fight and mortar attack.
While I was deployed, I felt like I was committing suicide every time I went outside of the Army Base. When I separated from the military after seven years of service in 2009, I took care of my Grandfather for a year. He passed away in August of 2010. It was a very sad and challenging time.
I tried working various jobs – everything from dealing black jack to learning how to fly Cessna 172’s with help from my GI Bill. Then in 2011, I decided to move to Arizona to get my aviation license as a helicopter pilot and fix wing. I soon realized I had a problem with alcohol. I was drinking whiskey, tequila, and wine on a daily basis. My alcoholism resulted in me dropping out of training and it affected every area of my life, including my personal relationships.
I knew I couldn’t continue on this path, so I reached out for help. The Rescue Mission welcomed me with open arms. Here, there are other veterans who understand what I’m going through and they speak my language. In the program, I’ve found a stable environment to learn and grow spiritually, emotionally, and physically. I’m getting back to being me. I now have enough peace in my life to enjoy reading spiritual books like The Reason for God and playing my favorite song on the guitar – So Cold by Breaking Benjamin.
As more and more of our soldiers come home, I am determined to help them stay off the streets. While our current veteran clients are staying at the Village of Hope, my dream is to create an entirely separate but similar Village of Hope campus and program specifically designed for the needs of homeless vets.
If this is a project you would be interested in getting involved with or supporting, visit our Veterans Initiative web page here or contact our full time Veterans Case Manager, Rob Jewel by email: firstname.lastname@example.org