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(Edited November 11th,  2015)

Today we observe the annual Veterans Day holiday.  I share a very personal experience here but first lets get a few facts out in front of us.

Veterans_Disabled son pushing dad

Random photo of a Soldier

The Veterans Administration reports that on any given night, approximately 300,000 veterans are homeless.  300 thousand!  That is roughly three-fifths (60%), of the entire Regular Army strength.  I am a veteran and I am grateful to have a home.  I retired in 2008.  Since my retirement, I had the misfortune of having met the criteria of being a homeless veteran.  I had been through a sudden and unexpected divorce.  I retired earlier than expected because my former wife and I agreed I would lead a startup, business venture. Her financial resources made that plan a possibility so she could support the family during the transition of the launch. With that in mind, I retired and we moved to a new state to start afresh.  But things weren’t quite right in our family and major problems came to a boil and so I delayed moving forward with the start-up or other options to try to address my family situation.  Then it happened.  After a conflict arose, a crisis ensued and she filed for divorce.  I was deeply and profoundly affected.  I had fully committed myself to my family. I never even dreamed of, or considered that possibility.  My son had just returned from Eastern Europe where he had been serving as a missionary. He fully expected that my wife (his step-mother) and I would make good on our promise to pay for his education.  With only a few weeks until school and a tuition bill due, we finagled a a way to get him in and pay the tuition.  He too had been hit by a virtual bus.  It was like a bomb had blown up our lives.

There I was, homeless and I had children to care for.  What’s worse, I had just retired early from a successful career in the Army.  I had been an esteemed Non-Commissioned Officer in the Army.  All I had now was a pension and some VA benefits.  I was caught totally unprepared.  The train wreck continues.  My former wife decided not to provide any resources to enable me and my 3 children from my previous marriage to settle into a place to live.  I petitioned for financial remedy with the court which fell on deaf ears.  Maybe it looked like exploitation.  At the same time I hoped it would cause her to reconsider the decision, but to no avail.  I was homeless. I had two daughters ages 12 & 15 and a 7-year-old boy with Down Syndrome to think about.  Thank heaven, I had extended family.  Notwithstanding, it was my children that served as the catalyst for my determination to press ahead, to keep my head above water and not sink and abandon myself to ruin.  I had a lifeline and it was my kids.  For most fathers in that situation, it is not the norm to be the single custodial parent.  But I was and I had to do something.

My extended family provided a place for us to live, off and on, for a couple years as we bounced around.  They say, “Timing is everything.” This had all happened on the heels of the 2008 economic meltdown.  People were losing their homes, companies were laying off and jobs were not easy to find in January, 2009.  I had spent 24 years of my 28 years in the Army as a Human Resources Specialist/NCO.  I knew the HR realities.  I knew the jobs weren’t there.  I decided to enroll in an HR certification prep class and for several looooong months I studied, and I studied, and then I studied some more.  I had essentially memorized that entire text-book.  When the time came, I made the decision to take the more rigorous exam, the one that would lead to my being credentialed as a “Senior Professional of Human Resources” (SPHR).  It would have been easier just to go for my PHR but I wanted to give myself a competitive edge in that dismal job market.  I then took the HR Certification exam and I passed it on my first attempt!  I was so overcome!  I remember screaming for joy repeatedly in the car on the way to my parents where we were living.  But still the economy wasn’t recovering.  I realized I was going to have to figure something else out.

Labor force increasing at nearly the same rate as Labor Force

I decided I would go to college using my GI Bill so I  was admitted and registered at the local community College as a full-time student.  I realized later that I actually earned a little housing allowance from my GI Bill that served as a form of supplemental income and I was able to rent an apartment and it was helpful.  Then my landlord pulled the plug unexpectedly some time after the lease expired.  It had morphed into a month-to-month lease. She explained that she sold the house she lived in and needed to move into the duplex she was leasing to me.  I had a month to find a home so we moved back in with relatives and sent one of my daughters off to college.  About 2 years ago I completed my associate degree in Business Management with straight A’s and next month I will complete my bachelors degree in Business Administration.  Earned a 3.9+ GPA with my associates degree.  I continue now with honors at my university.  I have worked like a Soldier is trained to work.  I study hard for my college courses as I had for my HR certification as an SPHR.

My friends.  The homeless people you see in the streets are not far removed from me –One out of 4 is a Veteran!  They served. They answered the call.  Like me, some figurative bomb burst their bubble of security and they were not prepared, just as I was not prepared.  I needed a hand up!  I turned to my family and I thank God for them!  I am blessed.  I cannot look upon a homeless Veteran or any homeless person without asking myself or wondering, “What if?”  What if I hadn’t had my kids depending on me.  What if I didn’t have extended family who were available and willing to help? What if I didn’t have the GI Bill.  What if…
“There but for the grace of God, go I” -and my children.

Veterans_Homeless 300k


I conclude with this plea.  Please celebrate your Veterans day by reaching out to a Veteran in need.  Give what your heart requires, great or small, but give.  In the Army we live by the motto, “Never leave a fallen Soldier behind!”  I ask all to join me and finding a veteran in need and helping them with as much or little as you have of your time and resources.  By doing that, I am certain you will have a very Happy Veterans Day!

P.S.  I am remarried and living in New Hampshire where my wife is an elementary school teacher and where we live in very home she was raised in.  I am a senior at Plymouth State University majoring in Business Administration.  I just celebrated the arrival of my fifth grandchild, and my second daughter (3rd of 4 children), will be leaving for college, out west at the beginning of the new-year.

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