John W. - The Story of a Veteran
John W. is a 57-year-old veteran currently experiencing homelessness. John shared that he enjoys watching sports and is involved in the Mormon church. He grew up in a small town in Arkansas and shared that his life was fine until his father passed away when John was only 13 years old. This caused John a great amount of pain and he began to use drugs in high school. However, his mom noticed that he was not doing well in school and signed him up to enter the Air Force at 17. He stopped using drugs, went through all of the necessary training, and became a full-time Air Force member when he was 19. John was stationed in Hawai'i and stayed there for 4 years.
After his time with the Air Force, John moved out to Chicago to live with his brother. His brother was a union painter and lived in a townhome, so it was a perfect place for John to start. John was soon able to acquire a job at a wholesale bakery managed by a union, which he described as a "good job" with "good money."
John ended up meeting his now ex-wife when he was 30 and they got married in 1991, about a year after they met. Together, John and his wife bought a house and started a family. They had three children throughout their 13 years of marriage. Unfortunately, John and his wife got divorced in 2004. This divorce was extremely difficult for John and he fell back into his old habits of serious drug use. John shared: "I was trying to nurse my wounds the wrong way, just by numbing them."
John moved back to Arkansas to be closer to his mom in 2007, as his ex-wife had moved away with the kids. He shared that he lost touch with his kids because, during the divorce, they did not seem interested in preserving their relationship with him. John lived in Arkansas for 6-7 years, but he truly hated it and was sent to a rehab center in California in 2014.
John attended the rehab center for 3 months and moved to a sober living house for another 3 months. He shared that he really enjoyed rehab because "it was almost like being in a college dorm" and "there were some really good people in there." After his time in rehab, John was able to apply for housing through veteran resources. He then got an apartment and lived there for a while, however, there were times when he had to sleep on the streets and in different shelters due to various circumstances.
John is currently living in a shelter and is applying for more permanent housing. He is also planning to go back to school and has already applied for a work evaluation to hopefully get him back on his feet. He shared that he is using many incredible resources such as soup kitchens and the Mental Health Association of Orange County, with whom he has been with for 6 years now. John's biggest piece of advice is that "people shouldn't judge anybody, because everybody goes through hard times."
Thank you so much for sharing your story with me and the world John! You are incredible & I hope that you are able to achieve your goals! I also want to thank MHAOC for allowing me to speak with John!
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