Until he joined 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’ve never been on a ship before, so yeah, think about it,” he said. “I had to learn to swim in training camp.”
Harvey worked as a sonar technician during the Cold War.
“I was taught to classify and search for Soviet submarines.”
And Harvey served two deployments over 12 years before being discharged without honor. He didn’t know it at the time, but he had developed PTSD after witnessing the death of his best friend on the flight deck of an aircraft carrier.
“At first, it didn’t feel any different, but as the years went by, my behavior started to change,” he said. “I didn’t show up for 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 I was withdrawn.”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 US veterans.
“It wasn’t just homelessness,” Harvey said. “It was legal issues. I had issues with my family. I had all sorts of things, and one by one, the US vets helped me work through those issues.”
“We can help you find a career path, if you need mental health support, if you’re recently housed and need care and support, if you want to be in a training program,” said Robert Stohr, executive director of US Vets. , which got its start in the Los Angeles area.
“[The founders] we decided to start with a site in Inglewood and see if they could house five veterans,” Stohr said. “And now we’re a $90 million organization with more than 32 sites in 11 states,” Stohr said.
The program inspired Harvey to pursue a master’s degree in social work. And now, she has come full circle, working for US Vets to help other veterans find jobs at her office at Patriotic Hall in downtown Los Angeles.
“I have veterans who [have a] high school diploma, Ph.D., Ph.D.,” Harvey said. “I have a veteran that I’m trying to place now with a JD.”
In the past year, Harvey has placed 23 former service members in new jobs and is grateful to US Veterans for giving him the opportunity.
“I feel like I have a purpose now, that all the hardships I endured were for a purpose, for a reason.”
Harvey says that when everyone wrote him off because of his PTSD, he found acceptance at community college and wants to pursue a doctorate in education.
“With that, I want to go back and teach at community college because that’s where the light went 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 way forward.