Greg joined the Navy in 1987, soon after his graduation from high school and shortly before the Gulf War developed. He quickly became a skilled technician and was deployed several times throughout operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm, spending months at a time at sea. The recipient of honors and recognition, he was a well-respected and skilled serviceman for 12 years. But in his thirteenth year of service, he developed a hidden drug and alcohol addiction. When it was discovered, he received an “Other Than Honorable” discharge, a determination that disqualified him from accessing critical veteran benefits. Even upon seeking treatment from the VA for the very addiction that released him from his service, he was denied because of his discharge status. In the following years, Greg struggled alone in Charlotte through his addiction, alcoholism and homelessness.
“I felt like I was abandoned and alone,” Greg said.
After years of struggling to overcome his addiction, he went to Legal Services of Southern Piedmont, and an attorney in the Veterans Legal Services Project helped him appeal the Veterans Affairs Office for Greg to gain access to critical benefits that could help him turn his life around. Because he had honorably served 12 years, that service qualified him to receive full veteran benefits. Now Greg has access to health care, housing and addiction treatment. Currently a year sober, he is also attending college classes to prepare himself for reentering the workforce.
“Today I feel very hopeful, and I feel like I’ve been helped and have a new direction in life,” Greg said. “There’s hope. There’s a future. There are people who care, who haven’t forgotten what I’ve done for my country.”