This is a story about two men.
Veterans of the war in the Middle East, both in their mid-30’s.
Both struggling with life and death away from the structured military world.
The troubles start immediately, according to Army and Marine Veteran Jachin Padilla.
“When you leave the service,” he says, “… where’s the mission? Daily life? Daily life is, it’s boring. I’ve been all over the world. I’ve been to Germany. Japan. I’ve seen the world! Then you come back to Tupelo, Mississippi and say, this is it?”
Jachin Padilla joined the Army, and was honorably discharged.
After seven months back home, he joined the Marines, then came home, and moved to Alaska, carrying his belongings, his addictions, and his Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.
Alaska is where his father died, where Jachin Padilla fell apart, living in the wilderness; no home, no pride, no feelings.
“I used and abused crystal methamphetamine ” he says, “… up to two grams, or an 8-ball a day. I was really, really messed up on some drugs. It made me not feel any pain about my father’s death. It made me not feel anything.”
You hear the stories about homeless veterans in Memphis.
Many of the men you see desperate to find a place to sleep once fought for our way of life.
Derrick Hicks once lived on these streets, after returning from serving in Iraq.
“It’s a third world country over there,” he says, “… so pretty much anything they can make a bomb out of, pipe bombs, something like that, or they can get old mines, something like that, and set it up.”
Derrick Hicks says he saw soldiers wounded by those bombs, maimed by the insanity that has continued for almost 20 years.
He came home, and something was wrong. Sure, he was addicted to pain killers, Derrick said, but he thought he was dealing with everything ok.
“When I first got back,” he said, “… I didn’t even know I had some problems that I did have. It actually took other people coming to me and saying, ‘hey, look man, you’re not being yourself. you’re not being you.’”
He has been off drugs for two years and three months now, living in an apartment, slowly pulling things together.
And remember Jachin Padilla?
He talked with his mother, asked for help, and came back to Mississippi.
He is also now clean and sober.
“It’s been 17 months since I’ve used anything.,” he said. It is a tough fight, he says, “The toughest ever, sir. But it didn’t start happening until I asked for help.”