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Veterans Day: Mission to Heal

Veterans Day: Mission to Heal

By Rick Loomis

“My vision here today is to at least reach out to one vet who is suffering,” said Iraq war veteran Tom Woods during a speech he gave while standing in the shadow of the battleship Iowa in San Pedro on Saturday afternoon.  Scanning the crowd, Woods adds,  “Somewhere out here is a man who needs help, standing in this very parking lot.”

But Woods has not always been in a position to help other vets.  Woods, once a sergeant in the Army, struggled mightily to reintegrate after returning home from the war in Iraq.  He hit bottom when he got three consecutive drunk-driving citations, which led to the family’s being evicted from their home, and ended up in jail.

Hug-425pxReporter Chris Goffard and I spent more than a year documenting the difficult journey he and his family faced on the road to his recovery.

On Saturday, during the second annual City of Los Angeles Veterans Appreciation Festival, Woods got a chance to tell others about the depths from which he emerged. He chose to use his speech to remind the audience of the difficulties many vets face.

“This country currently has 22 million vets just like myself,” Woods said.  “Some of them are suffering, whether it’s from substance abuse, PTSD, depression, homelessness, thoughts of suicide and the list goes on.”

In his lowest moments Woods’ battled all the problems he listed. But now well into recovery, he is happy to proclaim that “today I have my family back, I’m going to school, and I’m happy.”

When Woods finished his speech the first person to greet him was another veteran who Woods said had been suffering as well.  Woods immediately offered his phone number and his help.

As we honor Veterans Day, it seemed appropriate to allow Tom Woods and his family’s story to continue to enlighten us to the adversities that many veterans are still facing as they return home.

 “A Soldier’s Wife” – with video, still and written narrative

soldier1-600pxAlso: “Healing Sgt. Warren”

soldier2-600px

Top photos: U.S. Army veteran Tom Woods delivers a speech in the shadow of the battleship Iowa during an event to commemorate Veterans Day in San Pedro.  Woods recently returned from spending a year away from his family in a treatment program to deal with with alcohol addiction and PTSD. He served two tours of duty in Iraq.

Woods gets a hug from his mother Sandi Woods, after he delivered the speech.

Photographs by Rick Loomis / Los Angeles Times

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