He is only 27 years old, yet Edward C. has already faced more challenges than many people do in a lifetime. You can see it in his eyes.
But that is not the first thing you notice: at 6-feet-4-inches tall, you are immediately struck by his presence.
With his broad shoulders and close-cropped hair, Edward looks every bit the Marine he once was. But the years he spent in the Marine Corps took their toll. A bomb blast in Iraq left him with a traumatic brain injury.
Then, he had to contend with several personal tragedies: in a single month, Edward lost three people who were very close to him, including his father.
Overwhelmed, Edward struggled with anxiety and depression. As his symptoms worsened, he turned to drugs and alcohol to numb the pain. Suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in addition to his brain injury, Edward was unable to maintain stable housing. He then got into trouble with the law and was arrested for disorderly conduct.
“In a funny way, that’s the best thing that could have happened to me,” he reflects. After being placed on probation, Edward then connected with Pine Street, and moved into Pine Street’s veterans home in Dorchester. Kathy Conley, a longtime employee who directs Pine Street’s veterans programs, remembers Edward as reserved and distant when he first joined the program. “Once he embraced the support that was being offered, he began to soften and interact more with staff and the other veterans, many of whom were facing similar challenges,” she notes.
Along the way, Edward started taking college courses and volunteering at the Franklin Park Zoo. He also rescued Evander, an energetic puppy, training him as a service dog to help with his PTSD. Pine Street staff helped Edward apply for a rental voucher, search for apartments and finally move into a place of his own in September.
Edward reflects that he now has much to be grateful for. In addition to having his own place to live, he is a full-time student at UMass Boston, majoring in biology, and expects to graduate next fall. He also volunteers with Pets for Vets, an organization that trains service animals for veterans.
Most of all, Edward says, he is grateful for the support he found at Pine Street Inn. “What Pine Street does is so important. The services they provide help change people’s lives,” he notes. “If I could personally talk to Pine Street supporters, I would say one thing: ‘Thank you!’”