I served in the U.S. Navy for 10 years – six of those were spent at sea. I had a variety of jobs there, including working as a jet mechanic. When I was honorably discharged those skills transferred well into a position at an auto shop, and later as a correctional officer for more than 10 years. I've always worked hard to earn a living and provide for my wife and three daughters.
That's why these past few years have been especially hard. I was laid off from my job and it's been a struggle ever since. I did whatever I could to find work again – taking a minimum wage job as a security officer. But it wasn't enough money to get by. We lost everything. At one point my family was eating food from cans with our fingers because it was all we had in our apartment – no silverware, furniture and barely any food.
It took a lot for me to ask for help. In the military, they train us to stand on our own no matter what. You have to depend on yourself to survive – failure is not an option. That's pounded into you time and time again. And I've maintained that mentality and pride all my life. But at one point I realized that asking for help was the only option to help our family get back on our feet.
I reached out the Veterans Nonprofit food pantry here in El Paso – served by El Pasoans Fighting Hunger Food Bank – and the people there helped my family with food, but they also helped me emotionally by giving me hope that things would get better. And they are. I recently found security work that pays a bit more and am in school for further security certification. Once I get that, even more opportunities will open up. I feel confident that finally, we will be okay.
It's been a tough road, but when you're at rock bottom the only place to go is up – sometimes it just takes a helping hand to get there. I encourage all veterans who find themselves struggling to ask for help. Because there are places like the Veterans Nonprofit that truly care and want to give back to people like you – people who have given their lives to make our nation a better place.