From Barracks to the Ballroom: A Veteran Rediscovers His Passion
Last Updated: 01 Jul 2022
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The amazing story of one Veteran who pursued his dream, no matter what.
The United States Army is not a place for the faint of heart, and USA Veteran Noah Daniel proves it with his inspiring story.
An El Paso resident, UTEP student, aspiring fashion designer, and Endeavors client, Noah is a stunning example of a passionate U.S. citizen who believes in the full scope of the American Dream—spending years defending it, and then finally taking the opportunity to discover it for himself.
Joining the Military at 18
When it came time to choose a path after high school, Noah was immediately drawn to military life for the distraction it offered.
“I was trying to skip dealing with painful childhood trauma,” he explained. He joined the Army at 18 and served for eight years.
The military was loud enough to drown out his pain—but unfortunately, his time in the service added to the list of traumas that led to PTSD and other mental health challenges. “No one can prepare you for what it’s like,” he said. “Especially being an 18-year-old, joining the military, you don’t know what you’re getting yourself into.”
As an openly gay man in the military, he was often subjected to challenges his peers weren’t. He learned to cope by developing a thick skin: “I couldn’t let myself crack or crumble.”
However, when he transitioned out of the military, all those traumatic memories began to show up again.
Transitioning to Civilian Life
Transitioning out of the military and into civilian life is challenging for any Veteran, but especially for those with PTSD. Noah admits that he pushed his trauma away, thinking, “I’ll deal with this later.”
Now, he realizes that’s not really possible. “Everything is going to boil up and just explode if you treat your problems that way,” he said.
He didn’t know how to live his life or cope without the structure of the military. He tried to find a path to recovery by going to school, but his past caught up with him quickly. He was grappling with depression, stuck in an abusive relationship, and eventually found himself homeless, living in a Veteran shelter.
“I knew I had hope, but I didn’t know how to get it,” said Noah.
Meeting Endeavors & Finding Connection
Thankfully, the shelter where Noah was staying connected him with Endeavors.
Our El Paso Veterans Housing Program (funded with a collaboration with the City of El Paso) was created to help rapidly re-house and prevent homelessness among Veterans and their families.
When Noah connected with Endeavors and his case manager Yohana Duarte, he was nervous to open up.
“When I first met him, he was very apprehensive,” said Yohana. Noah knew the military stigmas around LGBTQ+ Veterans all too well, and had learned to save his trust for those who had earned it.
“It took a lot of building rapport and trust for him to open up,” said Yohana. “But once he realized that I was here to help with whatever he was going through, he brought his guard down and allowed me to help.”
Within two weeks, Yohana secured an apartment for Noah, and they enrolled him back in school at University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP). We connected him with mental health resources, accessible therapy, budgeting skills, reliable transportation, a job within the university system, and more.
With a newfound support system, Noah began to flourish.
“He was able to connect back to mental health and you know all these little things that he couldn’t focus on because his priority was housing,” said Yohana.
In his weekly sessions with Yohana, he started to open up about his goals and dreams as a fashion designer.
Pursuing a Dream in Fashion
Noah’s love for fashion began during his early years in the Army. When he was stationed in South Korea, he was deeply inspired by the country’s innovative and thriving fashion industry.
“Korea was basically the doorway that opened that passion for me,” he said. However, Noah had set his dream on the shelf for so many years due to his PTSD-related financial and emotional setbacks.
Now that he was thriving under a stable support system, he began to pursue these goals once again.
“Suddenly, my dream was back on the table,” he said. He began pursuing fashion seriously, styling shoots, creating his own designs, and joining the Ballroom community, an underground fashion LGBTQ+ subculture.
“I am constantly working on future projects and a line while still styling. Doors are opening for me,” he said.
A Path to the American Dream
Though Noah has graduated from the Endeavors program, he and Yohana remain close. As he continues to pursue his dreams and live his most authentic life, she still continues to be one of his greatest cheerleaders.
“He sends me pictures of his runways,” said Yohana. “I was always so impressed by his talent, and I’m so proud of him. I think he’s a great example of how Veterans who are LGBTQ or that are struggling with trauma can succeed. I think he’s a great example of courage. Seeking help takes courage.”
We are so honored to have been a part of Noah’s journey. We truly believe that, with the right support system, tools, and opportunities, everyone can discover their American dream.
“I can finally be happy,” said Noah. “I’m very proud of myself. I’ve never thought that I would be. It took a long time, but we’re here. I never thought that I would be where I am.”
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.