Brad and Sherry are part of an active family of four.
“We’re busy bees,” claims Sherry who besides being a mom to Max, 8, and Daphne, 5 is a claims specialist for the State of Washington’s family leave program.
Brad just completed two master’s degrees while at the same time working as a mental health counselor in a private practice.
The couple owns their own home and drives a paid off car.
Yet, their story was one of desperation only a few years before. The couple was broke, ready to split up, expecting a baby, and without a home to call their own.
Hard Times for a Returning Veteran
“Life sucked,” asserts Brad honestly who in 2013 after three overseas tours left the military with two purple hearts and lots of PTSD.
“I was pregnant and we had a lot of debt, no savings, and no skills. Neither of us had finished our degrees,” explained Sherry. “We were at each other’s throats.”
The couple moved in with Brad’s parents who Sherry hardly knew having met Brad in her home state of Washington a few years earlier. While Sherry was homesick for her own family, both found minimum wage jobs to stay afloat. Brad worked in landscaping and Sherry at a café.
In the meantime, Brad’s father suggested the VFW National Home as an option for the floundering couple since it was located nearby in Eaton Rapids, Michigan right where Brad had grown up and they were now living.
“It sounded like Never Ever Land,” laughed Brad when he describes how he felt when he first learned about what the VFW National Home had to offer.
Sherry who was concerned about how she would work once she had the baby was most excited about the free childcare, and initially thought they would just take advantage of that after the baby was born.
In the end, the couple received the full VFW National Home treatment and experienced dramatic life changes as a result.
No Need Unmet
“Naomi was our caseworker and she was a godsend,” said Sherry. “She understood our struggles and helped provide solutions.”
“Once we moved into the National Home it was a complete improvement in our lives. With childcare we could find better paying employment and I could go to school,” said Brad who went first to Lansing Community College and completed his Associate’s Degree and then finished at the University of Michigan with a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology in 2018.
Sherry pursued and finished her business degree at Davenport.
The childcare for Max and later when Daphne was born went beyond just free babysitting.
“We offer quality care for kids with comfort, learning skills, preparing for milestones in a loving and caring environment,” explained Ivy Bush, Director of the VFW National Home Early Education Center.
Bush recalls that Max made two very good friends at the center and Brad and Sherry became close friends with the children’s parents offering community connection for the family.
Help for Even Deeper Struggles
“We were also having marital struggles and they even paid for marriage counseling. It’s a big safety net and it helped us improve our life so we didn’t have to worry about just surviving. It was a huge relief,” added Sherry.
With PTSD from his numerous involvements with firefights in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as serious physical injuries, Brad appreciated the beauty and serenity of the campus.
“It was definitely very peace inducing. I love and enjoy the outdoors and being there was a godsend. I never feared for my safety and it definitely helped me work on my PTSD through therapy,” shared Brad.
Healing in a Safe Environment
“It’s kind of ‘Mayberry-ish,’” explained Sherry. “Your kids could wander around safely and the lawns were always green and manicured. It felt really safe.”
“Having access to multiple levels of resources to improve all areas of life including a house, utilities, food, and childcare allowed us opportunities to improve our lives in other ways. We always had backup. When our car got crashed, they let us borrow one of the National Home’s vans. Whatever we were dealing with they were there to help us out,” said Brad.
We’ve been married 10 years now and I don’t think we’d still be married or have our daughter if it weren’t for the VFW National Home paying for the counseling,” confessed Sherry.
The couple expresses the honor and gratitude they feel having received a hand up from the VFW National Home.
“We will spend the rest of our lives giving back. It changed our life trajectory,” said Sherry gratefully.