Meet a Veteran: Russell

Russell with Kim Cook, Executive Director for U.S.VETS - Barbers Point

Russell with Kim Cook, Executive Director for U.S.VETS – Barbers Point

Aloha! I was born in Wailuku on the island of Maui. I love surfing, diving, motocross, fishing & spear fishing – your typical local boy, full of ambition, full of love, and full of aloha! But all that changed when I signed up and joined the United States Marine Corps.

I’ve served in the USMC as a motor transport operator during the Desert Storm era. A hard chargin’, lean and mean fighting machine, everything I did in the Corps I did to the best of my ability. I received numerous awards and medals for my duties. I was a proud U.S. Marine by day or night. I went on many deployments and got to see the world. After all this I received an honorable discharge and was satisfied with the services I had done for my country.

After being discharged from the military, I came back home to Maui. I suffered (and still suffer) from sleep disorders, anxiety, depression, recurring dreams and the feeling of always being on the alert. These symptoms are known today as Post Traumatic Stress. To cope with these feelings I turned to alcohol and drugs – a choice I made that lead me into addiction.

During my addiction I was arrested and sentenced to 5 years in prison. While in prison, I heard about U.S.VETS through other incarcerated veterans. Determined to change my ways, I took the initiative and wrote to the VA. This is where the new chapter in my life began: the road to rehabilitation. With the help of U.S.VETS outreach workers, I was able to be paroled into the U.S.VETS VIP (Veterans In Progress) program.

Upon arrival to the U.S.VETS site, I was welcomed by a professional and courteous staff. Seeing this with my own eyes gave me a feeling of hope, which got me motivated and dedicated. I was assigned a case manager, and because of my addiction issues I was put on the treatment track, which consists of enrollment into the VA’s intensive outpatient substance abuse treatment program. Along with the treatment, and on-site classes such as relapse prevention and coping skills, I was able to successfully complete and graduate from treatment. Today, I have a better understanding of my addiction and new healthy coping skills, knowledge which I use daily to maintain my sobriety.

Another service provided to me was the Workforce Development program. Through this service I have gained valuable knowledge, such as resume writing, job search skills and interview skills, and I have found employment. While in the Workforce Development program at U.S.VETS, I was able to continue to work on my personal issues such as anxiety and anger through on-site individual therapy. Aside from the services provided, I was able to achieve personal accomplishments like Veteran of the Month (three times), Community Chairperson, A.M. Coordinator, and Big Brother to many veterans at U.S.VETS. These accomplishments have given me back leadership skills, self-confidence and self-esteem.

All of these services provided by U.S.VETS, along with my personal accomplishments, have helped to shape the man I am today. Through this program I have gained the inspiration to someday own and operate my own business. I have gained self-confidence and self-esteem to bring back the man who once wore the military uniform with pride and honor. I’ve gained anger management skills to remind me to be cool-headed and not hot headed. I’ve gained job readiness skills to help prepare me for future work endeavors. I’ve gained relapse prevention and coping skills to maintain my new life with sobriety. I’ve also gained family values, discipline, respect, and honor – values that myself and every veteran will have upon completion of this program.

On behalf of myself and the veterans of U.S.VETS, I’d like to say to our wonderful and amazing staff, and to all you generous people for your donations and caring hearts, “Mahalo Nui Loa!” Thank you very much for your contributions and services, and for believing in your U.S. veterans.