Warning: In order to honor the true stories of our veterans, their experiences are presented to you as told and may include difficult themes such as sexual assault, substance abuse, and suicide. If you or someone you know is thinking about suicide, please call the Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255.
Since day one, Ronnie wanted to serve his country. In school, he loved reading about World War II and stories of heroism like President Kennedy’s actions during the sinking of the boat he commanded, PT-109. Naturally drawn to strong leadership and mentorship, Ronnie learned from his football and boxing coaches, passing down those lessons to his four younger siblings. With his passion for service guiding the way, it was a natural choice for Ronnie to join the U.S. Marine Corps as soon as he was able.
When he joined the Marines, Ronnie brought five friends with him. Immediately recognized for his passion and ability to work with people, Ronnie was promoted and quickly continued to rise, eventually becoming a squad leader. After one overseas deployment, Ronnie was promoted to non-commissioned officer status, all in less than a year.
Despite his success in the Marines, other aspects of Ronnie’s life were more difficult. The stresses of a military career began to weigh on 21-year-old Ronnie, his 19-year-old wife, and their marriage. Reluctant to get a divorce and after a long commitment of serving his country, Ronnie decided to leave the military to work on repairing the bond, but the marriage could not be saved.
Ronnie began to struggle with depression, and feelings that he had failed both his family and his country. Without access to the support he needed, Ronnie’s experience with homelessness began.
Ever proud, Ronnie hid his struggles from his family, but especially from his mother. After sleeping in his car and taking showers at a local gym, at the recommendations of the community resource and referral center for veterans, Ronnie began his journey at the Community Bridges, Inc’s GPD transitional living for veterans. There, he began to develop a self-awareness of the structure that he missed in the military by being around other veterans and with the support of his case manager, Michael, began to find his way.
After moving into his new home and the reintroduction to structure, like the joy of making his bed in the morning, Ronnie started to heal. Today, he has a great relationship with his two adult children, who love him and appreciate his efforts to parent them as a single father. With encouragement from friends and his community, devotion to his faith, and a renewed commitment to serving others, Ronnie was able to see value in himself again and utilize the skills he was naturally gifted with – working with people.
Today, Ronnie is MTTH Ministry To The Homeless Support Specialist with St. Vincent DePaul. Always having a passion for people, he provides resources to families and veterans who shared similar life experiences, works with young people who have struggled with mental illness or have special needs, and coaches a co-ed youth football team.
Ronnie is just one of the veterans who have been served by the team at the Phoenix/Mesa/Maricopa Regional community, which joined the Built for Zero initiative to create a future where homelessness is rare, brief and nonrecurring for veterans. Despite the challenges of addressing a complex problem across a massive geography larger than four states, the community has reduced the veteran homeless population by half on their way to zero. And Ronnie is helping them expand their reach.
Through Ronnie, we have the story of a journey to a better life where the help he received has set him on a path to help others.
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