Freedom rang loudly for 27 men Sunday night, as they celebrated their new found independence and graduation from the Veterans Transitional Living Program.
The veterans, their families as well as staff gathered to celebrate at a service sponsored by Church for the Highlands.
Veteran Jerry Mayweather spoke on behalf of the graduates. They all took a “detour” on life’s path, he said, but through the VA and Volunteers of America they were able to find their way back.
“This graduation is not the end, but a step forward,” he told the group, which included current program participants. “I look forward to a life of promise and hope.”
The veterans all found themselves homeless for reasons ranging from post-traumatic stress disorder to addictions to hard times.
At some point they reached out to the VA for help, and the VA referred them to the Volunteers of America program. The program can house up to 56 veterans for up to two years, and focuses on structure, security and setting goals for the future.
“It’s an honor to work with each one of you,” said Mardie Griffing, case worker with the VA. “Sometimes we feel like parents, and we really do take pride in what you do.”
Two years ago, Mayweather was “existing but not living,” and was encouraged by his co-workers to get help for his addiction.
“It’s not easy when we have followed our own rules for so long,” he said. “But my rules weren’t working.”
He expected to be at the transitional home for a few months, and it turned into two years and he sorted out life. Now he is living on his own and is still working at City Printing. In his remarks, he encouraged those still in the program to take advantage of all it offers.
Stanley Mitchell, another graduate, found himself and reconnected with his wife, who stood by him despite his addiction.
“It’s wonderful to be clean and sober and live life without drugs and alcohol,” he said. “If VOA hadn’t been there, I don’t know what I would have done.”
His wife, Joyce, verified the tremendous change in her husband, saying he’s now like the man she fell in love with when they were teenagers.
“I see what I’ve been looking for for the past 30 years,” she said.
Since the program opened in 2010, 266 veterans have been served and have moved to independent living.