USA Cares

John Smith *

After bouncing around different jobs, John Smith was settling in as a waiter at a popular chain restaurant in January of this year. He enjoyed the opportunity to meet customers and thought the relatively low-key environment wouldn’t interfere with his mental health treatment.

But the restaurant did, on occasion, get busy, and it was during one of those rushes the Air Force veteran broke down.

“This customer had asked for another ranch and I just lost it,” John recalled. “It had nothing to do with that, but in the moment, I just completely freaked out.”

John was recently diagnosed with PTSD, which helped explain his reactions to stressful situations. Despite treatment, it’s been difficult for John to maintain employment.

“It’s situational,” John explained. “You don’t know what is going to cause an outburst or reaction. You can try to train yourself through therapy and stuff to catch those triggers, but sometimes it seems to just get worse with age.”

After the incident at the restaurant, John quit his job as a waiter. Before long, he was homeless.

“I had $0 in my bank account, and I mean nothing,” John said. “I had no way to eat other than to go to these food banks for a couple boxes and cans of food. I had three daughters and no way to feed them.”

Feeling helpless, John’s thoughts turned dark.

“I had a suicide attempt before that was serious enough for me to be hospitalized for 90 days,” John said. “I was almost at that point again.”

His daughters gave him the strength to continue fighting.

“If not for my girls, I would’ve given up,” John said.

Instead, John began reaching out to veteran organizations, eventually finding USA Cares. At the time, he was days away from losing his car insurance and feared a traffic stop would bury him in a hole he couldn’t climb out of.

After receiving his paperwork, the committee approved assistance for John. USA Cares helped supply food cards and paid for his insurance to be reinstated.

“That assistance changed my life,” John said. “It has given me hope I can make it these next two weeks.”

John is doing the work to get back on his feet. He’s enrolled in the VA’s housing and employment programs and said he’s hopeful he’ll have a job again soon.

“I know there are people out there that need help just like me, but they aren’t asking for it because of their pride,” John said. “This was the first time in my life I had to swallow my own. But it’s important to remember there are people out there that want to help.”

*name has been changed