New Veterans support group numbers quadruple

New Veterans support group numbers quadruple

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by TONY BURBECK / NewsChannel 36 Staff

Bio | Email | Follow: @TonyWCNC

WCNC.com

Posted on February 8, 2012 at 5:31 PM

Updated Wednesday, Feb 8 at 6:42 PM

HICKORY, N.C. -- A first of its kind veteran support group in Hickory has quadrupled in size over the last few months.

Organizers say it's due to a huge need and more homeless veterans literally coming out of the woods to seek help.

Army veteran George Christian's home is a tent in the woods in Hickory.  After serving his country, Christian spent a year in prison on a weapons charge.

"I've been homeless off and on for four years,” he said.

Marine Eugene Carmack was discharged in 2009, then went to prison for multiple DUI charges.  He struggles to find a job making more than minimum wage.

"I will be of course much happier with $15 an hour, but I'll take the $7.25,” Carmack said.

Veteran Don McCorkle says the violence he saw affects his civilian life.

"When I got home I started drinking a lot and started experimenting with drugs,” McCorkle said.

That's how he ended up homeless.

Now, a small building on Highland Avenue in Hickory is a second home.

Inside it doesn't matter what branch of the military veterans were in, what battles they fought, what personal demons they are fighting now or if they were honorably or dishonorably discharged.

There is food, clothing, computers, a washing machine, even tents and heaters for veterans living in the woods. 

Veteran Paul Byrd helps due to a great sense of need.  Byrd co-owns a local business and tries to help unemployed vets find work by mentioning them around town.

"I've got a good person here who is ready to go to work,” he said.

Most of all, there's a lot of talking.  It takes a vet in need to know a vet in need.

Some say they feel unappreciated, taken for granted and not sure where to find help.

The number of vets coming to the Veterans Helping Veterans support group every Wednesday has jumped from five to 20 since it started in October.

"When you get down in the trenches of life you lose hope, and to hear people getting jobs, to see there are jobs out there, that people have been where I have been and now they’re on top, that gives me hope,” Carmack said.

The group meets every Wednesday.  They're also planning for a homeless veteran stand down in April, when veterans from 10 counties from the mountains and foothills will get medical, dental, eye care, food, clothing and haircuts.
 

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