Madison resident Shar-Ron Buie served 25 years in prison, was homeless and lost his daughter prior to VA helping turn his life around. Now the U.S. Marine Corps Veteran dedicates his life to helping other Veterans thanks to VA's HUD-VASH program.
Buie was raised by his grandmother, believing she was his mother the entire time. They never lived in a single location for more than a year and he found himself shooting at someone when he was 11.
Then he found the military.
“When I left for the Marine Corps, I was floundering," Buie said. "I didn’t believe it was possible for me to do anything but go to prison, shoot someone or be killed.”
During his four years in the Marines, he served as an audio visual technician at Lawry AFB, Camp Pendleton, and as a Training NCO at the Marine Security Guard Battalion, Department of State, Quantico, Virginia, prior to his honorable discharge. Two years later, Buie was convicted of intentional homicide and sentenced to life in prison after getting into an altercation with someone else carrying a gun. After lobbying for his release and being denied parole 19 times, Buie was released after 25 years.
He didn’t let those years go to waste though.
“While I was in prison, I completed my bachelor’s degree in business and almost completed my master’s degree in criminal justice. I did end up getting my master’s degree from UW-Platteville after my release and now I’m getting a Ph.D. in criminal justice. I teach College Success at Marquette University where I'm also the associate director of the Education Preparedness Program.”
Despite his accomplishments in and out of prison, adapting to life after prison wasn’t easy.
“After I was released, I was officially homeless. I was able to stay with my sister for a bit, but I had no idea where to turn. I remembered hearing about the VA’s HUD-VASH program while in prison and decided to call and see what they could do.”
Buie applied for and was approved for HUD-VASH funding. The program helps homeless Veterans and their families find and sustain permanent housing and access the health care, mental health treatment, substance use counseling and other resources they need. Through the aid of the program, Buie began moving his life in the right direction again.
“I got an apartment and stayed there for nine months before using the VA home loan program to purchase my own condo. Ever since my discharge, I’ve used my education and knowledge to assist other Veterans by connecting them to resources - providing peer support and legal services to impacted and marginalized individuals.”
While VA services helped Buie find a meaningful direction in life, his daughter Carrie has always been his motivation. She passed away suddenly in 2018 at the age of 31 and it changed the course of his life.
“When she died, I realized that none of this was about me anymore,” Buie said. “I made a commitment to smile every single day and to help someone every single day. I’m going to make a difference and that’s because of my daughter. If I was to allow my situation to consume me, if I were to allow myself to be upset all the time, what sort of disservice am I doing to Carrie?”
Buie credits VA’s HUD-VASH program for him successfully transitioning from prison and achieving the goals he set. His only regret is not discovering the VA and its services in 1982 upon his discharge.
“I’m a patriot. I’m a Marine. I love my VA. My problems have been brought on by my own ignorance. But the resources are available for everyone who wants it. The receiver is the key. The resources are there if you connect. It would have made all the difference in my life back then. It did make all the difference in my life in 2020.”
You can reach out to the HUD-VASH program by calling 608-280-2095 or visiting www.va.gov/homeless/hud-vash.asp. For more information about the Madison VA Hospital, visit www.madison.va.gov, www.facebook.com/MadisonVAHospital and subscribe to our newsletters.