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Honoring Women Veterans

July 13, 2010

Last week my kids and I were in Detroit for a Tigers baseball game.  We joined everyone in the stadium on that 4th of July weekend in honoring veterans.  As the screen on the scoreboard projected the faces of the veterans in attendance and the crowd cheered, I found myself thinking of the women vets who have come through Calvary’s housing programs.  In particular, I thought about Helen.

Helen served for years in the United States Army.  A chronic illness forced her into early retirement from a career that she loved.  While she was still struggling to stabilize her health, Hurricane Katrina hit her hometown of New Orleans.  Helen’s mother died in a nursing home there just days after the tragedy.

Her extreme grief and fragile health led to severe depression and addiction to prescription medication and alcohol.  “My mother was my heart,” she told me.  “Losing her was more than I could take.”  Within months Helen was spending most of her income on her addiction.  She lost her apartment.  Not long after, she became so sick that she was hospitalized.

The social worker at the VA Hospital suggested she come to Calvary.  Helen credits taking that referral as the moment she got back on track.  She thrived at Calvary – taking advantage of case management, engaging in therapy services, and getting connected to additional VA benefits.

According to the National Coalition of Homeless Veterans, about one third people who are homeless are veterans.  The number of women vets continues to grow as more women serve in combat and struggle with PTSD and other illnesses.

Today Helen lives in her own apartment again.  Her health is stable enabling her to work full-time in a social service program that serves veterans.  She is proud to know she can make a difference for other women, as Calvary made a difference for her.

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