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A VETcare Success Story: Justin

  • Post category:Oregon

By VETcare Oregon Staff

Justin is a Native American U.S. Marine Corps Veteran who served from 2001-2005. He was stationed at Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Miramar 2002- 2004 and MCAS Iwakuma, Japan from 2004-2005 as an Administration Clerk. He was awarded the Marine Corps Good Conduct Medal, Sea Service Deployment Ribbon, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Certificate of Appreciation: Letter of Appreciation, and Expert Rifle Badge.    

After being discharged in 2005, he tried college for two terms, and then had the opportunity to go into a business venture with his dad, operating a Christmas Tree business. In 2008, Justin suffered what would change his course in life and was involved in a horrific car accident that killed his best friend, Paul, who was driving the vehicle. Justin sustained major injuries, breaking his right leg in two places and bending his left in half. His left foot was severed (and later reattached), his left arm was crushed, and his head sustained a major traumatic brain injury where his skull cracked from ear to ear. He spent a total of 90 days in the hospital and had to learn to walk again and use his left arm. Justin spent the next several years using a walker or a wheelchair to get around.  Because of the accident and the amount of pain killers they put Justin on to get through the day, he became addicted to pain medication and when that stopped working, he started using harder drugs.   

In 2009, Justin met his wife Elizabeth and her two children, whom he took under his wing and became their dad. In 2010, they welcomed a son into their lives. In 2011, Justin and family moved from Montana to Roseburg, OR so his wife could be closer to her sister. Then in 2013, Justin’s wife was diagnosed with breast cancer.    

In 2013, Justin started to kick the opioid addiction by pushing through and dealing with the pain and was finally able to completely kick everything in 2015. Later in 2015, he suffered his second life-changing event and that was when his wife passed away from her cancer – making Justin a single parent overnight.  

After Elizabeth passed, Justin went to live with his sister and was placed in housing with HUD-VASH, and at that time, he was working and taking care of his kids. Then in 2019, due to the stress of being a single parent, Justin relapsed and his life progressively spiraled downward until August of 2022 when he wound up being evicted from his apartment and unable to take care of his kids. His kids were split up between his two sisters, with one in Roseburg and the other in Montana. Justin ended up going to rehab in Astoria. 

While Justin was in rehab in Astoria, he heard about VETcare Transitional Housing program and all that we had to offer. So, he decided to take a chance and try it out. Justin graduated from rehab and came to VETcare in October of 2022 and has been doing everything he can to get clean and sober, get employed, and get the funds saved up so he can get his kids back and move back to Montana one day.    

A Collaborative Solution:

Soon after coming to VETcare, he enrolled with HVRP (Homeless Veterans Reintegration Program) and took workshops to become more employable and trainings that would make him a more competitive applicant. Justin also took the Peer Support Specialist Training through Project ABLE where he one day hopes to help Veterans and Native Americans who were in the same place he was. In April 2023, Justin became employed with Goodwill Industries as a cashier. He is one step closer to achieving his goal and getting his kids back and being a family again.   

In Justin’s Own Words:

“VETcare has given me a jump point or a starting place with the possibility to regain control of my life and get myself where I both want and need to be in life for myself and my kids. HVRP helped guide and direct me to many job opportunities and was there to have my back and dust me off when I was turned down for employment opportunities until I was able to secure employment. HVRP’s Employment Specialist, Jennifer, not only helped me find available work, but was also ready to ensure that I was prepared and able to work.”