Vietnam veteran who struggled with homelessness, overcame addiction, now has home
Robert Edward Nathaniel Jr. now has an apartment of his own after getting sober and discovering resources for veterans in East Texas.
TYLER, Texas (KLTV) - Jacksonville native Robert Edward Nathaniel Jr., known as Nathaniel to most everyone, served a little over two years in the U.S. Air Force after being drafted for the Vietnam War. He was an Airman First Class, but says it was very difficult to adjust to life after the war.
“I have had to live in a cardboard box in some brush, ‘cause I was too proud to bow down and go to my family for support,” he says. “My experience with the Air Force gave me the challenge that other people didn’t, didn’t experience – bad and good. I came out of the Air Force with serious depression.”
Along with depression, Nathaniel suffered from drug addiction and faced criticism after returning from the war.
“A lot of people looked down on us as shame, and it was kind of hard to get a job when you came back from Vietnam.”
This led to other challenges, including homelessness.
“I was evicted from my place. I didn’t have the right nourishment. All I needed to live for was drugs,” says Nathaniel.
Nathaniel found help and resources from organizations like the VA and CampV.
“I’m happy for the support that we have.”
However, he has some ideas to help decrease the number of veterans without a home.
“Take the veterans off the street and put them in these homes. Build more shelters. have the engineering to put these veterans to work.”
As of today, Nathaniel wants people to know he now has a place to live and continues to move forward. Having survived four strokes – he is now thriving with speech and physical therapy and is looking forward to celebrating four years of sobriety.
“I have a great support group: my family and my kids. They rally around me,” he says.
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