Meet Mr. Buford, a 57-year-old Marine Corps Veteran from Chicago’s west side. Mr. Buford joined the Marine Corps in 1976 when he was just 23 years old. For him, it was a chance to do something positive with his life. Most people in his network were in gangs, and he didn’t want to get involved in that. The Marine Corps provided a structure and discipline that he carried with him throughout his life.
However, the transition to civilian life was hard for Mr. Buford. He struggled with the lack of structure and found himself getting involved with drugs. But then something amazing happened. Mr. Buford was sleeping on a bench, and a sheriff’s car pulled up beside him. The officer asked if he was okay, and Mr. Buford told him he was a drug addict. The officer referred him to Haymarket House, where he stayed and got clean. He’s still in touch with that officer today.
Mr. Buford’s journey led him to VOA Illinois and Hope Manor I. He found a community of fellow Veterans who supported him and helped him grow. He completed the Veteran Peer Specialist Course and received a Certificate of Achievement in the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance. Now, Mr. Buford is a Veteran Peer Support Specialist himself. He’s able to talk with other Veterans and help them solve their problems. He’s helped other Veterans stop smoking cigarettes, find jobs, and deal with relationship issues. His favorite memory is working with a Veteran who was so grateful that he took time to help him through his alcoholism.
“I love to share my hope, strength, and experience with my fellow Veterans. I always say, ‘anything you believe, you can achieve.’ I think it helps that I am a fellow Veteran and can understand that aspect of their life. If my story and my support can help one person, that is a feather in my cap.”
Mr. Buford’s story is a powerful reminder that we all need support and community in our lives. It’s not always easy, but with the right people and resources around us, we can overcome even the most challenging circumstances.
That’s what VOA Illinois and Hope Manor I provide for Veterans like Mr. Buford – a community of support, encouragement, and hope. Your donation will help provide Veterans with the support and resources they need to thrive. With your help, we can ensure that more Veterans like Mr. Buford have a chance to transform their lives and find hope for the future.
Mr. Buford wrote a poem about his experience.