Mark’s Story
“I'm very proud to be a veteran, but to have protected freedom overseas and then come back home to struggle myself is very disheartening.”

Mark, Kentucky

At 22 years old, I joined the Army and served in Iraq. When I finished my service, I returned home to McKee, Kentucky. Probably the hardest part of being in the military was reintegrating into civilian life. The military didn’t really prepare me for finding a job. In those days, it seemed that people didn’t want to hire vets because they thought we all had PTSD. I don’t think I have it, but my wife says I do because when I hear a helicopter goin’ by, I’m planning for it to crash.

Back in McKee, it took me six months to finally get a job interview. It was at a home for at-risk youth where the associate director was a vet himself. He understood what I was going through and hired me. I loved the job, but got laid off when the economy went downhill. After that, I found work in California but soon realized that the high cost of living outweighed the higher pay. I started saving a bit from each paycheck and bought a bus ticket home.

I’m very proud to be a veteran, but to have protected freedom overseas and then come back home to struggle myself is very disheartening. I’m probably going through the most financial struggle ever now because I’m working back at the at-risk youth home while going to college. I’m not making enough money to support my wife and baby son the way I’d like. We gave up a lot of pleasures, and cut back on how much we used the lights and stuff, but we still couldn’t pay the bills on time. I never thought that in my lifetime I would have to be on food stamps. I never wanted to. Becoming a husband and dad changed my whole perspective.

I could deal with the hunger, I’m a veteran. But when my wife also started skipping meals so we could afford to feed our baby, I put my pride aside and we applied for food stamps. Getting food stamps changed our whole quality of life. Without them, there’d be no doubt in my mind that I’d have to get a second job and that would steal time away from my baby. I want to be there for him in a way my father couldn’t be there for me. Yeah, my wife could get a job, but we can’t afford a babysitter. It shouldn’t be this way.

I know that there are gonna be better days. I’m hoping that after college, I can get a good job in telecommunications and make enough money so we don’t have to worry about food and whatnot. And that we can go out every now and then and treat ourselves to something special.