Actions Speak Louder: One Vietnam Vet’s Inspiring Transformation
Last Updated: 05 Aug 2022
Veterans Support & Mental Health Careecho $minutes. " Minute Read"?>
One meeting with a case manager can make a world of difference.
When we met Eddie Smoot in 2017, his Endeavors path seemed simple enough—he was a Vietnam Veteran struggling with homelessness, so we connected him with case manager Juliana Barnes to see what we could do.
We found Eddie an apartment through our Veteran Supportive Services, a program which rapidly re-houses and prevents homelessness among very low-income Veterans and their families.
And all seemed well. Smoot kept in touch with Barnes, who was always impressed by his attitude.
“He was a real, bona fide Vietnam vet,” she said. “He’s seen more than his fair share: three active duty tours, one on a ship.”
His military history left him tough-minded, and he was always determined to get through any adversity he faced, often on his own.
“He’s proud,” Barnes said. “He only came to Endeavors because he was really down on his luck.”
So when Smoot called several years later, asking for help again, she knew it had to be serious.
A Wheelchair, Hard Times, & a Puppy
“He called me up and we went to a Whataburger,” she said. At the meeting, Barnes was shocked to discover Smoot in a wheelchair due to a recent leg amputation.
“He never reached out and asked for help,” she said. “He felt like a completely different person after the amputation. He was living in his car and he had developed a drinking problem. It broke my heart.”
Besides the surprise of finding him in a wheelchair, Barnes also was surprised to find Smoot had found a new friend: a puppy that Smoot said “was keeping him alive.”
Finding “Home” for Eddie
Barnes immediately went to work looking for a new place for Smoot to live, but it was harder this time. Much of his paperwork had been lost, and none of his temporary housing options would allow dogs.
“We found a spot for him in the dorm, but they wouldn’t take his puppy because it was under a year old,” she said.
As his case manager, Barnes, worked tirelessly on rebuilding his documents, but he had to stay without his dog for 3 months while we went through the process.
“He waited patiently,” she said. “He never complained or asked for anything.”
Finally, the day came—we were able to move Smoot to his new apartment, where a welcome kit and bed were waiting.
Barnes recalled Smoot’s gratitude on the day of move-in: “He looked at me and said, ‘This is very nice.’ I asked him, ‘Was it worth the wait?’ and he said, ‘Yes.’”
A New Home & a New Life
Since his move-in date, Smoot’s life looks radically different than it did prior to that fateful Whataburger lunch.
“He no longer drinks. He’s completely self sufficient,” said Barnes. “I offered to put away a carload of household items for him recently, but he didn’t need the help. He goes to HEB. he gets around by himself. He loves his apartment. It’s right downtown and has a beautiful view.”
Smoot is a man of few words, but what he did have to say was full of gratitude: “Juliana Barnes is very, very helpful. She always stays in touch with me. Endeavors has been very good to me. I appreciate you guys and what you do.”
Though Smoot is relatively quiet when it comes to his story, Barnes is adamant that his actions speak louder than words. “He’s definitely a changed man,” she said. “He’s gone through some horrific times, but he’s emerged transformed.”
Paying It Forward
One way Smoot shows his character? He pays it forward by connecting other Veterans to Endeavors’ services.
Barnes often fields calls and referrals from Smoot, always trying to help somebody else.
“It speaks to his character,” she said. “He’ll say, ‘I have a friend. I met somebody who needs some help, would you be able to help them?’ He’s kinda famous around here for that.”
About Endeavors Endeavors is a longstanding national non-profit that provides an array of programs and services in support of children, families, Veterans, and those struggling with mental illness and other disabilities. Endeavors serves vulnerable people in crisis through innovative personalized services. For more information, please visit www.endeavors.org.