From a Hopeless Homeless Veteran to a Hopeful VA Supervisor
Transitioning from military to civilian life was as U.S. Army Veteran Gregory Dwight Saunders describes as ‘A downhill spiral.’ Departing from his camouflage uniform, combat boots, and the security of a military base to the new reality of calling a car as his home led him to a dark place.
In the midst of nightmares and unimaginable physical pain, he began to depend on sips of alcohol to heal. When that no longer worked, he took it upon himself to attempt to take his own life.
No longer recognizing himself, Gregory was told by a friend to visit Building 16 at the West Palm Beach VA Medical Center. This is when the West Palm Beach VA Healthcare System entered his life as his last hope.
Gregory knew nothing about the VA. He says, “I walked inside the building and with my conditions left with emergency housing.”
The support did not stop there. With his commitment to leave his unhealthy habits behind and eager to serve his brothers and sisters in arms, he was hired as a Housekeeping Aid at the West Palm Beach VA Medical Center.
Upon hiring, he told his manager – “This will not be a mistake.”
Cleaning supplies in one hand and a heart pumped with a passion to serve has allowed him to excel within his VA career. Now, six years later he leads his own team as a Housekeeping Aid Supervisor.
He says, “I owe the VA everything. They really did save me. They gave me hope, they give us Veterans hope.”
To Gregory, his role is more than meeting cleanliness standards, it is connecting with those who are in similar shoes he once wore.
As a now leader, he proudly says, “I stand firmly by staying dedicated to Veterans at the hospital, especially those going through what I have been through. I try to encourage them that things can get better and educate them about the resources that got me to where I am.”
It is not rare to find him sitting alongside the beds of hospitalized Veterans listening to their stories.
In his eyes, the medical center is more than a treatment center, it is their home. Those moments of listening are the small things that someone once did for him, and he does so in return for what that conversation years ago has allowed him to become today.
Continuing his service outside of the military is what fulfills him. “I had a lot of lives in my hands when I served and still feel that way now. Veterans depend on me to do my job,” says Gregory.
Hope can be found within the home of the VA, take it from Gregory who once walked into the medical center as a once hopeless, homeless Veteran and now walks out as hopeful VA a supervisor. There is hope, as said best by Gregory, the man himself – “The help is here, it is waiting for you.”