Until he enlisted in the Navy, Malcolm Harvey had never been away from home. He grew up in Pasadena and joined as a result of the Iranian Hostage Crisis.
"I’d never been on a ship before, so yeah, think about that," he said. "I had to learn to swim in boot camp."
Harvey worked as a sonar technician during the Cold War.
"They trained me how to classify and search for Soviet submarines."
And Harvey served two deployments over 12 years before being dishonorably discharged. He didn’t know it at the time, but he had developed PTSD after witnessing his best friend die on the flight deck of an aircraft carrier.
"At first, it didn’t feel any different, but as the years went on, my behavior started to change," he said. "I wasn’t showing up to work. I was very angry all the time. I was withdrawn."
After wearing out his welcome with his family back home, he ended up on Skid Row for years until a fellow veteran told him about U.S Vets.
"It wasn’t just homelessness," said Harvey. "It was legal problems. I had issues with my family. I had all kind of things going on, and one by one, U.S. Vets helped me resolve those issues."
"We can help you find a career path, if you need mental health support, if you’re recently housed and you need care and support, if you want to be in a training program," said Robert Stohr, executive director with U.S. Vets, which got its start in the Los Angeles area.
"[The founders] decided to start with one site in Inglewood and to see if they could house five veterans," said Stohr. "And we’re now a $90 million organization with over 32 sites across 11 states," Stohr said.
The program inspired Harvey to get a master’s in social work. And now, he’s come full circle, working for U.S. Vets to help other veterans find jobs at his office at Patriotic Hall in downtown LA.
"I have veterans that [have a] high school diploma, PhD, doctorate," said Harvey. "I have a veteran I’m trying to place now with a J.D."
In the last year, Harvey has placed 23 former servicemembers into new jobs, and he’s grateful to U.S. Vets for giving him the opportunity.
"I feel like I have purpose now, that all the hardship that I endured was for a purpose, for a reason."
Harvey says when everyone counted him out because of his PTSD, he found acceptance in community college and wants to pursue a doctorate in education.
"With that, I want to go back and teach community college because that’s where the light turned on for me, and I want to do that for others."
And Harvey wants to assure other veterans that with the right resources, there is a path forward.