USA Cares

Mark Jenkins

Mark Jenkins enlisted in the Army with the hopes of a better future and, really, to spite his brother.

“I signed up because my brother didn’t want me to,” Mark said. “He didn’t want me in the Marines with him, so I went Army.”

It was 1979 and after completing basic training at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, he had just begun specialized schooling when he came down with a bad case of strep throat.

“I almost died,” Mark said. “After that, (the Army) kind of got rid of me.”

Just nine months after enlisting, Mark’s time in the service was over.

“I felt like I failed,” Mark said.

In the years following his separation, Mark struggled to find a new direction. While still in the Army, Mark learned he had become a father, but his absence from his son’s life left him with a lot of guilt. Struggling to find employment and with no place to call home, it wasn’t long before he turned to a life of crime.

“I did some time,” Mark said, referring to the 15 years he spent in prison. “A lot of time, really.”

Sadly, Mark isn’t alone. According to a USA Today article published in November of 2023, “more than 180,000 veterans are incarcerated, accounting for nearly 8% of the state prison population and 5% of those in federal prisons.”

Things began to look up for Mark after his release. He found a job in construction, got married, and was in the process of buying a home when it all fell apart. According to Mark, a domestic dispute led to a series of judicial mishaps that left him alone and homeless again.

“I finally thought, I can’t keep living like this,” Mark said.

So, in 2023, Mark reached out to USA Cares after an employee at the Salvation Army gave him a USA Cares HVRP case manager’s business card. He called and was connected to Rick Carullo.

“He has helped me more than anyone has ever helped me,” Mark said.

With Mark in the passenger seat, Rick drove him around from interview to interview. Eventually he was hired as a warehouse employee at IVY Technologies.

Not long after starting his new job, Mark bought a car and said he hopes to have his own apartment within the next month. After that, Mark said his focus will be on getting his criminal record expunged and repairing broken relationships with his family.

“I guess this is another chance,” Mark said. “It’s been a struggle, but when one door closes, God opens up another.”