A Veteran's Story
By: Christopher G.
"I vividly remember the day I made the life-changing decision to join the military.
I was in my seventh-grade homeroom, laughing and cutting up with my schoolmates when my teacher turned on the news and suddenly yelled at us to be quiet. When he announced that our country was under attack, our entire class fell into hushed disbelief. It was at that moment that my thoughts first shifted from just having fun with my friends to realizing I had a decision to make.
"The event of 9/11 would mark the beginning of a journey that would shape my life."
I was raised in the foster care system with no family history of military service. I decided to join the Navy, initially aspiring to be a Navy SEAL. However, after scoring high on the Armed Forces entry test, they redirected me to become a nuclear electronics technician, responsible for starting up and shutting down nuclear reactors on submarines and aircraft carriers.
The Navy provided me with an education, much-needed security and discipline, and taught me the importance of teamwork and prioritizing the group over the individual. Alone, we are limited, but if we have a common goal and unity, there's nothing that we can't accomplish.
In the armed forces, we have a commitment towards one another born out of common struggles. I cherished this camaraderie with like-minded individuals who placed service to the country above all else and were willing to lay down their lives for the people and country we love. I witnessed firsthand the physical and mental traumas and scars shouldered by veterans who returned from deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan. I've watched friends lose limbs and even their own lives. These experiences instilled in me the commitment to be the best I can be and heightened my awareness of the need for civilians to better understand what veterans endure and the importance of critical access to mental health care.
After serving in the military, I struggled with drug use and mental illness. I lost my job and housing and didn't know where to turn. That's when I went to the Veteran's Administration (VA), and they directed me to The Salvation Army.
"I didn't realize that The Salvation Army was more than just a homeless shelter."
I didn't realize that The Salvation Army was more than just a homeless shelter. It was a completely eye-opening experience for me when I arrived and was immediately provided with a bed, a shower, and hot meals, which was a godsend after living on the streets.The Salvation Army provided a sense of community and support I desperately needed. I got to know others experiencing similar struggles. People who were strangers became friends, and people who didn't have family created a family bond inside the shelter.
The Salvation Army helped me not only with my immediate needs but also with my journey towards recovery. The staff checked in often and helped me continue my discourse with the VA. They also offered social services, mental health support, and even spiritual services.
The church services played the most important role in my healing process. Through the church, I experienced the love of God and was able to break free from my addictions and find a sense of peace and purpose. Attending services regularly and being a part of the spiritual community provided me with the support and guidance I needed to let go of my past, embrace hope, and develop a strong foundation for my recovery.
In my time at The Salvation Army, I've gotten to know a group of stellar people, both clients and staff. They have helped to change my life and given me a newfound perspective on what's important in life. I'm so grateful for their service and for the love they have for the work they do. When I greet a staff member, I'm met with a smile, warmth, and affection. They truly make me feel loved and at home.
"The Salvation Army stands in the gap to help better their lives."
Now, I want to give back and help people who have fallen on hard times reintegrate into society and lead fulfilling lives. I want to be a voice for the voiceless and fight for those without one to stand up for them. In a time when individualism is emphasized, I want to remind people of the importance of serving one another in love."