A Vietnam vet suffering from social isolation and depression, Gary found new purpose with GCB.
Gary went into the Marines at age 17. He served two tours in Vietnam. And then he came home in 1975. “People weren’t cheering back then,” he says. He figured he better get on with his life. “I told myself everything was fine and tried to put it all behind me.”
He didn’t yet know that his coping mechanisms would fall short. How could he know? He was barely an adult.
He began working in the Kroger factory, but got injured on the job. Since his daughter’s mother had a good job as a nurse, it made sense for Gary to stay home with his daughter. It would just be for a while. That was the plan.
Seventeen years later, the relationship with his daughter’s mother ended. “The issues I hadn’t dealt with as a young kid, with Vietnam, all came out during the breakup. I couldn’t sleep at night. I was depressed. I knew that I wasn’t myself and I needed to understand what was going on,” Gary says. At this point, he didn’t have a car. But GCB was on the bus line, and one day, he walked in and asked to talk to someone.
“I still have challenges to work with, but now, I feel like I have a purpose.”
He started to see a GCB psychiatrist to help with his depression and sleeping problems. After a while, he found that simply coming through the GCB doors and going to the Wellness Center was giving him an uplift. “GCB was the bright spot I needed,” he says. “It was a real safe zone for me.”
Still, Gary knew the next step was getting a job. “I had been a stay-at-home dad for 17 years. I had no idea how to get back out there.” His care manager suggested he attend an afternoon meeting for people who were trying to get back in the workforce. It helped Gary build confidence and get prepared for working again. “I was so introverted. I think I had a chip on my shoulder, too,” he says. The simple act of talking to other people in similar situations was life-changing. A few months later, he got an offer to join the janitorial crew at GCB as a client-employee, and he gladly accepted.
In 2015, he was hired as a part-time employee of GCB (not a client-employee), and began supervising his own crew. He’s been able to buy a car, which means that he can drop his 20-year-old daughter off at school. She’s a junior at Xavier University and lives with him. “I still have challenges to work through, but now, I feel like I have a purpose,” Gary says. “I have somewhere to be and I get to see people thrive under my leadership.”
With GCB, Gary has truly learned how to put things behind him. But more than that, he’s learned to embrace what’s ahead of him.