MACV Veteran Story: Jeff finds his way home
Jeff is a Minnesota native. Raised in Duluth, he joined the U.S. Marine Corps as a Combat Engineer at 17 years of age. He grew up watching the first television war – Vietnam. He was one of those kids whose entire family was in the military. Grandpas and uncles all had military experience.
He wanted revenge for the suffering of his brothers in arms, though the conflict ended before he was called to deploy.
“When you’re young, you’re Mr. Hero. A tough guy.”
Jeff’s service ended in the late 1970s. Like many in that time of great change, he went home and “kind of goofed off” for a while. The economy was inflating at a staggering rate. Being associated with the military wasn’t exactly a good thing back then.
In the military Jeff had status. He was somebody. Then he got out and had to make something else happen.
“You find out you’re not a hero. No one cheers for you. You’re not bulletproof. You’re just another person.”
Luckily, Jeff’s neighbor was a general contractor in need of laborers. So he went from building bridges and blowing up explosives to building new homes for Minnesotans.
As a carpenter he worked hard. He played hard also. He started to drift around in the ‘80s and ‘90s. He started drinking more. Things got bad. Then things got worse.
“Some days I didn’t want to get out of bed. Some days I didn’t. That would just make it worse. I’ve been really low, man.”
Alcoholism affects millions of Americans from all walks of life. It kills 100,000 people a year in this country alone. Those who live through it typically battle depression and anxiety. Problematic encounters in life snowball, made worse by liquid depressant. Recovery is a journey fraught with many perils. Some just don’t beat it. They wake up one day sleeping under bridges. Hanging out under the street signs. Begging for money from the town that raised them.
Sometimes all Jeff could do was just make it through the day. He was so mad at himself that he couldn’t be nice to anybody else. Jeff finally hit bottom.
At that point, he finally grew tired of the pain and misery. So Jeff tried something different. He stopped drinking and on he went to other small victories. Things started to work out.
“Stay on the right path. Be determined not to fall back into old habits that got you messed up. It’s all about doing the work and staying sober.”
That’s what Jeff did. He kept putting one boot in front of the other. If he didn’t drink, he was winning. But stable housing still eluded him until he connected with MACV.
Working with MACV, Jeff was able to find a home in transitional housing for Veterans in Duluth. It proved to be a solid start to a new life of possibility. He continued to take care of himself. He found that help was more available and more impactful the more he tried. The better he got, the more goodness he found in life.
“MACV wants to help. You can see it in their eyes. They mean business. They work hard for you, and they work harder if you’re putting forth effort of your own.”
He moved out of transitional housing and into his own apartment over the holidays. He’s been fixing up the place, making it home. Support organizations showed up with a truckload of furniture, pots, pans, and the other things people who haven’t become homeless take for granted.
Jeff has completed the MACV program. When he left transitional housing, there were tears on both sides. His support team shook his hand. Pride.
“We did good, didn’t we? Now we can walk away and say we’re good.”
Taking care of human beings. That’s what MACV does. The team comes by to keep in touch and exchange friendly conversation. Just because.
Jeff spends his time learning how to cook and do the simple self-care practices he never did before. He learned to be alright with himself. He’s back home in Duluth, a beautiful city nestled between gorgeous hills and the vastness of Lake Superior.
“I’m relaxed. I’m not depressed. Total change in my mood since I got some housing. I’m a happy person. Just having my own place lets my mind and body finally relax.”
Now well on his way to living the good life, Jeff is giving back. Clothes, boots, furniture, the necessities. He sometimes walks the streets he used to call home. Checking on old friends. Being there for them. Checking to see if they’re ready for change.
He tells them to dial that one phone number whenever they’re ready for change. Whether it’s social services, a treatment center, or MACV if they’re a Veteran.
“Just make that call and start the climb. It ain’t easy, man. But in six months, everything can change.”