From the Outside: SSVF Success Story

Supportive Services for Veteran Families Lancaster, Pennsylvania Client Doug N.For Supportive Services for Veteran Families Lancaster, Pennsylvania client, Doug N, outside appearances didn’t always reflect what’s going on inside of this Army Veteran. During his high school years, Doug skipped school.  “It was too easy, and I was bored.”  His parents were concerned with his behavior and sought professional help to determine the cause.  What they learned was that Doug wasn’t being challenged. So, he quit school and started working different jobs in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.

Enlisting on a Whim

On a whim, he visited a friend who was in the Army at Fort Bliss, Texas.  “I got to see his day-to-day routine and it looked like working a normal job to me.”  He returned to Lancaster County, Pennsylvania after a few months and visited a recruiter.  He joined the Army reserves and went to basic training at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri.  After basic training, he went to Fort Sam Houston, San Antonio, Texas to become a basic medical A specialist.  This provided more advance training than a combat medic.  His Army reserve unit was located with the 365th Engineering Battalion in New Cumberland, PA.  He also worked part time at an egg-packing plant.

After 6 months of reserve duty, he enlisted for a 3-year term of active duty.  He loved being a medic and spend 18 months in Eschborn, Germany working at a job he loved. The role was rewarding for this young solider.

Life-Changing Incident

In the Autumn of 1983, Doug world changed when he was reassigned to mortuary duty after the bombing of the Marine Barracks in Beirut, Lebanon.  He spent countless days handling the remains of soldiers killed in the brutal attack.  Then, two of his fellow soldiers died and he was tasked with handling their remains until they were returned to their respective families. “This really had an impact on me,” he said.  “I never expected to push my friends’ corpses through the morgue.  It really traumatized me,” he added.  He turned to alcohol to numb his pain and to cope.  He got a DUI and his drinking got worse.

The Army sent him to counselling and this included being confined to his base. The confinement and isolation only increased his drinking.  He was discharged from the Army and returned home to Lancaster, Pennsylvania in 1984.

In spite of his struggles, Doug believed the words of the recruiting campaigns that promised to teach you a skill for life in the Army and life after the Army.  Doug was looking forward to working in the medical field.  Unfortunately, the civilian medical jobs required their own certification and training.  “I worked as a volunteer EMT to use my training.”  One of his last duties as an EMT was responding to a call where a friend hit a tree head on.  “It was more trauma.  I couldn’t do it anymore.”

He continued to work various jobs including as a mechanic, a sweeper truck operator, retail sales, and a hay bailer.  This hardworking employee was hiding a secret—he was a functional alcoholic.

In 1999, he reconnected with a boyfriend who convinced him to get sober.  During the process, Doug endured flashbacks of seeing bodies and nightmares. It was brutal.  As a result of that experience, Doug, remains vigilant about his alcohol use today.

The years following were fraught with a tumultuous long-term relationship that had Doug moving to different parts of the country and experiencing unnecessary drama.  He knew for his own mental health and well being he had to make changes.

Doug reconnected with Jeff through Facebook.  The friendship soon blossomed into a romance and in September 2019, Jeff and Doug got married.  A new and fresh chapter of his life had begun.  But they were struggling to make ends meet on the small disability payments they were receiving.

Supportive Services for Veteran Families Lancaster, PA

Doug was sorting through old paperwork and found some information on the Supportive Services for Veteran Family program in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.  He made the call to the Supportive Services for Veteran Families office in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.  “I took a chance and I called,” noted Doug.   SSVF was able to help him get caught up with his past-due rent and utility bills.  He also received help for car repairs, food, toiletries, and other basic household needs.  “They helped us get back on our feet again,” he added.

Working with Supportive Services for Veteran Families Lancaster, Pennsylvania case manager, Kim Hartman, Doug has been paying his utility bills and has been gradually increasing his portion of the rent payment.  He shares this advice with other Veterans, “You need to pick up the phone and ask for help.”  For many veterans, asking for help is the most difficult part.  “Kim and the SSVF team made it easy to ask for help.  No judgement.  Just an offer to help in any way they can.  She treated both me and my husband with respect and kindness.”

Supportive Services for Veteran Families Lancaster, Pennsylvania is located at 128 E. Grant Street, Lancaster.  Contact us at 717-740-5077.


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