Where did you serve and what did you do?
I served as a US Navy Air Traffic Controller from 1991 – 2002. I was medically retired due to mental health issues developed after 911. I struggled for years after my discharge. I experienced periods of super high energy followed by soul crushing depressions. This illness was complicated by chronic PTSD that predated my service. I finally hooked up with the VA in Lexington, KY. Once I started working with a mental health professional at the VA, I began to stabilize enough to get a full time job at Lowe’s. I worked there for about 10 years. Although I liked my job I felt empty inside. Selling toilets wasn’t my calling in life. I missed the comrodery of the Navy. I started to get letters from the VA about the post 911 GI Bill and that I could go to college. I went to the University of Kentucky to study Social Work. I just wanted to work with other Veterans. My internship was with the Volunteers of America’s Homeless Veterans Transitional Treatment Program. This was a 40 bed long term drug and alcohol program on the Lexington VA’s campus. After I graduated from UK I was hired by the HVTTP as the unit supervisor. After a few years there a Peer Support Specialist job became available at the Lexington VA in the Homeless Program. Talk about a perfect fit. After all of that loss during and after my discharge, I had to fight the stigma of having a mental illness ( the worst thing ever). My wife had left me and took both you our young children to another state 600 miles away. I was left penniless. I had to file bankruptcy. I lost my job, I lost my family, I lost my house and I lost both of our cars. It would have been easy to just give up but, that’s not who I am. I chose to get help and get healthy so that I can help other Veterans dealing with similar issues. Now days my life is rewarding and it feels as though I am living the dream.
How are you #StillServing?
I think I covered this above but I think of my self as a humble servant leader. That’s why I became a Peer Support Specialist at the VA. I know I can’t help every Veteran who needs help but, sometimes by sharing my story I can encourage others to not give up.
Why do you do it?
Because I care about Veterans. I been through what some are going through now. It’s rewarding vocation.