Support for our Military Veterans

Our nation’s military members make the sacrifice to bravely defend our freedom, but according to the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs, sometimes face harsh challenges when they return home from serving such as issues reconnecting with family, entering the workforce, creating structure in their lives, and more.

United Way of Greater St. Louis (UWGSL) partners with the Eagle’s Nest of St. Clair County and work together to make sure veterans are able to achieve their highest level of self-sufficiency, economic independence, and rejoin their communities. Thousands of veterans have benefitted from Eagle’s Nest efforts to make the transition from military life to civilian life as seamless as possible.

“Supporting our nation’s military veterans is paramount. United Way’s partnership with Eagle’s Nest of St. Clair County has been crucial in providing wraparound services for employment and permanent housing through intensive case management,” said Christopher Williams, Executive Director of the Eagle’s Nest of St. Clair County. “Together, we ensure every veteran receives the support they deserve for a successful transition to self-sufficiency.”

Milano’s recovery

Milano decided to enlist in the US Army in 1991. He was struggling in college and was searching for something to give his life more structure and purpose.

The military gave him stability and taught him the importance of selfless service, duty, and integrity. He even picked up skills as a Food Service Specialist where he learned about cooking and food preparation, skills that he hoped could benefit his career once his military service was over.

Milano was honorably discharged in 1995, returning him to civilian life. The structure and stability he once enjoyed while serving was gone and his life took a downward spiral because of it.

“Returning from army life to civilian life was kind of rough,” said Milano. “When you’ve been regimented and disciplined, its hard for soldiers to come back and acclimate to a free society.”

Milano began to delve into drug and alcohol use to mask his post-army anxiety. During this time, he was also diagnosed with diabetes and was subsequently hospitalized.

The disease worsened to the point that he had to have both of his legs amputated. He stayed in the hospital for five months, learning how to cope with having diabetes and re-learning how to walk, which took four hours of physical therapy every day for an entire month.

When he was finally released from the hospital, his drug and alcohol use escalated. The reality of being a bilateral amputee was traumatic and substance abuse was the only way he knew how to numb the pain.

The difficulty of reintegrating into civilian life, his heavy drug and alcohol abuse, followed by a life-changing medical procedure weighed on him and his marriage, eventually leading to a divorce.

The divorce left him alone and displaced. He lost his home and was homeless for six months.

He roamed the streets, continuing to use drugs and alcohol. Given all that he had been through, it was difficult for him to see a way out, but the Eagle’s Nest Joseph Center, a transitional housing center for male homeless veterans, gave him a lifeline and a reason to grasp hope.

“Being newly amputated and living on the streets, I was searching for a way to regain a since of normalcy in my life,” said Milano. “I was struggling, and I had a talk with my brother, and he suggested that I go get some type of treatment. So, I called 2-1-1 and they recommended the Joseph Center and they have been instrumental in keeping me clean and helping me get my life back on track.”

Eagle’s Nest provided Milano with a breadth of basic needs that he had been lacking for so long. He was provided housing, intensive case management, clothing, meals, hygiene products, substance use support groups, transportation assistance, career exploration options and various life skill services.

“2-1-1 serves as a lifeline for homeless male veterans, directing them to Eagle’s Nest where tailored support awaits,” said Christopher. “At Eagle’s Nest, these veterans find not just a shelter, but a sanctuary of care and empowerment. Through the collaborative efforts of 2-1-1 and Eagle’s Nest, homeless male veterans receive the specialized assistance they deserve, reclaiming dignity and rebuilding lives with honor.”

The resources provided to Milano gave him the opportunity to work on overcoming his addictions and focus on his physical and mental wellbeing. With time, he began to improve, and he has now been sober for over six months.

His sobriety has allowed him to change his outlook on life. He is reinvigorated and has hope for a better future. He exercises three times a week, more friends and families have returned to his side since his recovery and are now some of his biggest supporters, and he is focused on securing his own permanent housing.

Milano serves as an inspiration to countless veterans throughout the bi-state region who are struggling with similar circumstances. When our nation’s heroes struggle, UWGSL and Eagle’s Nest work together to empower them and give them hope for a brighter future.

Take action now:

Rodney Humphries
Rodney Humphries

Rodney Humphries is the Communications Specialist for United Way of Greater St. Louis and a proud graduate of Webster University where he developed his passion for writing. In college, he combined his love for writing and sports, serving as the primary sports writer for his school newspaper while also developing his own sports blog. After graduating, he continued his love for writing as he served as a freelance writer for various publications. Rodney continues to be a fan of Webster athletics, you will often see him sitting courtside at a lot of their basketball games.