Raised in a loving, stable family, Hank decided the National Guard was his best option after high school. At that time they hadn’t deployed in years, so his first shock was orders to Bosnia, and there he watched the Sept. 11 attacks. Shortly after returning home, he was training to go to Iraq. As part of an infantry platoon, they were outside the camp every day during the bloodiest month for American servicemen. “I lost many friends, and saw many Iraqis lose their lives. … We saw things no one should ever see.” When Hank returned home from war, it was easier to ignore his emotional and mental issues than confront the pain and demons. Instead, he started to self-medicate with drugs and alcohol, becoming a person he didn’t recognize. “Ashamed, broke, homeless, and on the run from the law,” he finally reached out for help.
Starting at the VA and then Volunteers of America’s Veteran Services, Hank learned how to cope with his past and prepare for a new, bright future. “Volunteers of America gave me a place to live and got me back in the habit of saving money and paying rent. Today, I tell people the VA got me healthy and Volunteers of America saved my life.” As Veterans, like Hank, struggle with visible and invisible wounds, we partner with the VA hospital and HOPE Connections to prevent homelessness and help Veterans in transition to find safe, stable housing. “Today I have a job, a little bit of money, and my own home. I have rebuilt relationships with my family, and I live my life like a ‘normal’ person. I’ve worked my tail off to get here, but I wouldn’t be here at all if it weren’t for Volunteers of America.”