May 27, 2019•Veterans
Supporting Disabled Veterans: Meet Winston
Below is the story of a former service member. Veterans sat down to talk about their experiences dealing with disability after the military. They are difficult to hear, but for these men, even more difficult to experience. It is for that exact reason they need to be told and understood. We bring you these stories in the hopes you may be moved to donate to the publication of a resource guide for service members. Should you feel so moved, please donate by visiting our donations page. Thank you for listening.
I wanted off the streets. I grew up in Philly with six siblings and I consider myself the problem child. I joined the service at seventeen. My parents signed for me. I wanted something positive in my life. The military seemed like the change I was looking for, but I soon learned I would be unable to serve as I had anticipated. A medical issue diagnosed by military doctors meant that I was sent back to the same place I had enlisted to get away from. Every 30 days I would check in and then go right back the neighborhood. It was what I knew.
At the time, it felt normal. I didn’t much think about how it affected me. I was discharged from the service in 1972 and started getting arrested over the years. Those arrested finally caught up with me when I was sent to jail about 15 years later. See, at the age of 17 I had also gotten married and was too immature to be making decisions that serious. And, with the drugs and trouble I was getting into, all that caught up to me eventually. I saw the chance I had taken to contribute to society disappear.
I was an angry person, I felt like I was let down in not being able to do what I had signed up to. I joined the military for a reason, and I was sent right back to where I was trying to get away from. I started acting out. It was like no one cared. I had no say in the matter. I wanted to do good.
I was abused as a child and lived in a very violent household. I took that out on society. I was in prison for 24 years. For the first ten years of my sentence, I fought to get out. Of all the things I’ve done, what I was convicted for was the one I wasn’t guilty of. I didn’t have a lawyer and I spent those years writing people in the hopes they could help. I was denied it every step of the way. I was just released. I spent the time in prison to turn my life around and address the things I wanted to do educationally and vocationally. Towards the end of my time on prison, I started reaching out towards veterans services inside to help my transition back into the community. Those veterans services made me feel like I finally had someone listening to me and as though
Now that I’m out, I still want to do good, but every obstacle is just making it harder. I was able to find housing, in a group home, but I’ve just gotten my disability check and it’s nearly a hundred dollars less than my rent. How am I supposed to afford it? Plus, I still need to eat and pay other bills. What am I supposed to do? The organizations I’ve reached out to won’t help me until I’m living on the street. I have multiple disabilities and I cannot wait for that to happen. I need resources. I need help.
I wish that something like this already existed so I wouldn’t have to scramble for the things I need. I am helped by open churches and pantries, but it’s difficult to tell what all is out there. Disabled Veterans need help, support and resources. Please help.
To give to the production of a resource guide for disabled veterans, please donate here and designate your gift to the “Veterans Resource Guide.”