FORT MITCHELL, Ala. – After sacrificing a lifetime of service to the armed forces, a Fort Mitchell man returned to the Chattahoochee Valley without a home. Now, Ret. Sgt. Brett Smith hopes to inspire other veterans who might find themselves at a low place in life. Smith fought in both Operation Desert Storm and Operation Iraqi Freedom.
“I did not see no way no how during my time in the service that this would happen when I got out,” Smith said.
But the veteran felt blindsided when he returned to civilian life. After two stints in the army, Smith spent two stints on the streets without a home.
“Sleeping in abandoned buildings, sleeping in cars, staying in friends’ houses late, saying ‘aww man it’s too late for me to go home. Can I stay?'”
Smith says being homeless dealt a heavy blow to the once bright and eager 18-year-old that enlisted in the 1980’s.
“I’ve seen the belly of the beast, the bottom of the barrel, the lowest of the low,” Smith said.
Smith credits the Homeless Resource Network as one of the major influences that helped him overcome homelessness. Director Liz Dillard says there are plenty of stories like Smith’s. She says many veterans struggle with both physical and mental disabilities when they return to civilian life.
“It is pretty overwhelming,” Dillard told News 3. “The experience of homelessness is a traumatic event. We have a lot of veterans in our community, and that’s a wonderful thing. But anyone who’s given their life and service to have a need and experience homelessness…we can do better.”
Smith relies on his faith and past experiences to get through tough times. Now, he wants to inspire other veterans who need a home when they return home. It’s a promise that will take a lifetime of service.
“There are better choices and better ways. I’ve told them, I’ve been homeless and I know what it’s like. I’m going to help every veteran to stand up,” Smith said.