Eric had been struggling to make ends meet living on and off the streets after he ran away from an unstable home at 13 in the 1970’s. Seeing the Navy as an opportunity for stability, he joined the service on his 18th birthday. Soon, he was deployed on a 45-year-old World War II ship.
“It was very difficult,” Eric said. “We would work 20 hours a day, seven days a week for months. It was brutal. We worked so hard. There was a lot of heavy lifting and sleepless nights. It’s something that I’m really proud of, but it was very hard work.”
Eric was discharged from the Navy days short of two years for fighting on the few days they had off in port; his supervising officers reported that he wasn’t adjusting well to military life and gave him a good recommendation and a general discharge.
“I had been on my own since 13 years old. I had lived on the streets, and I had no idea what structure was,” Eric said. “I am proud of the fact that I made it as far as I did with what I had.”
When Eric came to LSSP, he had gone from owning his own restaurant to losing everything and becoming homeless again in the economic downturn; moreover, his service-related injuries were interfering with his work and day-to-day life. Unfortunately, Eric’s eligibility for many veterans benefits was complicated by his discharge with less than two years of service. The Veterans Legal Services Project helped Eric obtain benefits related to injuries he sustained in service, which allowed him to finally gain access to VA medical care. Now Eric feels more hopeful and looks forward to moving on from his pain.
“This help was life altering,” Eric said. “I felt lost. But getting this, it feels as if I haven’t been completely forgotten. It was a load off, just to know that your service is acknowledged, that you put your life on the line.”