Falling on hard times is no reason to give up and quit, it‘s actually the driving force of my life. Despite the many times I have fallen down, I always pick myself up to find that I'm stronger and better equipped to handle life. Recently I have been caught in a whirlwind of unpleasant situations as well as been given an opportunity that comes once in a life time.
I am a man that has problems in my life, and I’ve never met a person that didn’t have problems. Now that being said, we all have something in common. The trick is not to deny but to acknowledge them to further understand myself and the situations around me. Everyday I wake up as a man that has much to accomplish and with so little time to do it. It’s easier to make excuses on how bad life is and how unfair the world treats me but no amount of sympathy will get me to where I‘m going. It’s not so easy sometimes in life to take responsibility and accept that sometimes I am wrong. I don’t know everything and it’s ok to ask for help.
It’s unnerving how life takes a turn when I least expect it to, and usually good feelings aren‘t associated with stressful situations. I have found that even when times are the toughest, there’s always good things that present themselves as well. It may seem that when troubles happen it’s a very inconvenient time but I believe all things happen in life to strengthen my spirit and shape the man I am becoming.
At the time of writing this it wasn’t that long ago that I had returned back from a combat zone. Life had taken many fortunate turns and it seemed like nothing could hinder my plans for life. I thought that but soon found out life had plans of its own for me and suddenly my world was turned upside down. I lost my little family that I loved and our home I was living at, all in the same night. For a couple weeks I lost the sense of who I was and where I was heading. I was now sleeping on friends and family’s couches hundreds of miles away from my son. I was not only heart broken from separating from his mother but I desperately needed to be a father for my son. I felt like I was at rock bottom but this wasn’t the first time in life I had felt this way. Luckily all the not so good things that had happened before these events prepared me to not make matters worse by panicking. My life experience prepared me to stay focused on what I needed to do, get back on my feet, get back to my son and get on a path to a career.
After finding an organization that helped me out by providing me with housing, I found another that was now helping me on my way to become a business man. Less than 24 hours after learning of the SWVBRC, I registered then later signed on as a Learner. I wrote a few sentences the night I registered not expecting to hear back for a while but was surprised to hear back that night. Albert Renteria had impressed me from the first encounter and only continued once we met in person.
I knew I was in the right place but probably a little late seeing as I was now homeless....well living in transitional housing for homeless veterans. Better late than never, right? But I couldn’t help to imagine if I had found this resource during better times in my life. It's easy to lose sight of what's important but never too late to get back on the right track. I sat there in down town Fallbrook listening to a man speak about business, hardships in personal life and a sincere concern for his brothers in arms who had honorably served or are still serving their country.
Despite all that is known or assumed of military personnel in a positive light, I found it heartbreaking to learn from Albert that the homeless population consisted of such high percentages of veterans. My world stopped for a minute as I realized what that was saying about the support veterans are supposedly getting. The support supposedly receiving from institutions funded exclusively to provide support for veterans. The truth is, we are not getting it. It is being used to pay high wages to some institutions acting like they are helping veterans but are just collecting a pay check while the veteran begs for change on freeway off ramps.
I listened as Albert continued speaking to me about some of his background and we had more in common than I could have ever imagined. It's extremely hard to capture and express feelings and emotions of being in a brotherhood known as the Marines unless you were in. His adherence to core values only solidified my connection and enhanced our exchange of thoughts, ideas and problems to be worked out. Albert and I talked for what seemed like minutes but in actuality the information he was presenting had me captivated for hours. He asked me questions about my life and about my struggles mixing in business techniques and his idea of leaving behind a better world for vets. He explained, "we must let the community know what we are struggling with, in our own written words, in order to bring about an awareness to aid the homeless veteran".
The people do not know our struggles because our stories have not been told, have not been heard and until that happens, we cannot be helped. The majority of people sees a homeless veteran laying on the sidewalk and looks at him in disgust but at the same time most "wish" there were something they could do to help him. "That is the veteran we are trying to reach out to and bring back into the community", Albert expressed to me.
Talking to down and out veterans was something both Albert and I had been doing in our own ways for years. It wasn't until then that I realized, everyone is doing just that. The general population of citizens are en masse, willing with heart felt desires, to help veterans but don't have a centralized hub in order to accomplish this. This is where SWVBRC has the opportunity to better equip veterans with life skills and the tools necessary to enable vets to become once again, contributing members of society. Albert has a idea and a plan, now all it’s going to take is the will of the veteran and citizens to get the idea and plan from paper to reality. It’s exciting because it’s been happening before I was part of this and in my short time here, it’s already grown.
For the first time in my life I feel like I can breath easier only because I am now part of something bigger and better than me, just as good if not better than the feeling I had as an active duty Marine. That bigger and better something is our community.