Wars impact each of our lives in some way, but none feel it more than those who fight them. The soldiers who leave our families to serve return as changed individuals, and their lives moving forward are often drastically different as well.
Matthew is one such soldier. He joined the Army National Guard when he was just 17, and was later deployed as part of Operation Enduring Freedom. Overseas, he spent most of his time teaching operational tactics to foreign police forces and running security operations. His experiences are mostly positive, but he still remembers the fear he felt when being shot at and the pain of losing a close friend in action.
When Matthew came home to Illinois, the stress of the fighting and of the life he returned to took their toll. He fought with his girlfriend, who eventually kicked him out of their shared home. His mother couldn’t work, and so she and Matthew’s younger sister moved into his apartment. Matthew was eventually appointed his sister’s guardian and began trying to regulate her rebellious behavior. To deal with the stress of it all, he often took his paycheck to the local casinos, where he would gamble and drink the dollars away.
Over time, Matthew became addicted to the high of winning. He would lose thousands of dollars at a time, but he kept coming back. After a couple years, he’d lost more than $46,000. He couldn’t keep his sister’s behavior under control. He fell behind in rent payments and was facing eviction. Finally, he became overwhelmed and had to leave. Matthew packed a backpack with everything he felt he needed to start his life over and began walking. He didn’t stop until he reached the Mission’s front steps.
Recently, Matthew joined our men's transitional housing program as one of 30 vets currently staying in the Curtis Center. He has found a job, is taking the Curtis Center classes, and has set goals for his development in the program. He no longer turns to gambling to cope with his situation. Matthew feels that he is better able to deal with the stress of his life and his memories, and soon he will be ready to reenter society.
- Category: Guests