From the Battle Field to the Streets & Back Home

From the Battle Field to the Streets & Back Home

By Jayson Armstrong
Volunteer, Mental Health Association Oklahoma

In the Army’s Infantry Division, I felt pride and honor. I was a part of a brotherhood that I was linked to for life. When I ended up on the streets and wondering if I wanted to keep on living, it was that same brotherhood that helped me pull myself up by my own bootstraps.

I left the Army in 2003 to be a dad for the first of my three children. I didn’t want to be across the globe. I wanted my son to know me. For a paycheck, I managed a Rent-to-Own store, but then my then untreated bipolar disorder slowly crumbled my life over the next 10 years.

In 2013, I lost my wife, my kids, my home, my comfort zone. Homelessness feels alone and dark. I didn’t trust the shelters, so it wasn’t easy to find food, a shower, or a roof over my head.

With my survival training, I could have stayed homeless for years, but I reached out for help from the Veterans Administration. I’m so thankful that the VA connected me with a safe place to live at the Association’s Yale Avenue Apartments.

The first day in my apartment, I was in a pretty dark spot. I just wanted to be in my room by myself and isolate. Then I realized I lived on a floor with other veterans who understood what I’d been through, because they’d been through it, too. I eventually got up the courage to start reaching out to them, and asking about their own stories. It felt good to make friends again.

My advice for other veterans on the streets right now is don’t try to do it by yourself. Make sure you’re not afraid to reach out for help. There are a lot of people, including me, out there for you.

Getting a home definitely helped me heal and get better, and appreciate what I had. It felt absolutely amazing to come as far as I have, with help, of course. My mindset is completely different now, and I understand my mental illness: It’s not that I am bipolar. I have bipolar disorder and I’m finally enjoying life again.

I used my second chance at life to reconnect with my wife and kids. Now we all live together in a house near beautiful farmland. 

These days, I love how ordinary my life is. I’m at every one of Jayden’s middle school band concerts. I love losing at Minecraft to my brilliant 10-year-old son, Jaxyn. And when it comes to my 9-year-old, Journye, well, she’s my little girl and I’d do anything for her. Same goes for my wife, Debra. I once thought I’d lost her forever, but now I look forward to every night we eat dinner together and she tells me about her day at the hair salon. It’s the little things I love the most.


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