Special to Iredell Free News
When he was 20 years old, Chris Williams deployed to Iraq with a local N.C. National Guard unit.
On November 15, 2004, Chris was working with John Gallina and Dale Beatty to sweep the roads for IEDs when one exploded near their convoy.
As a trained combat lifesaver, he was one of the first members of the unit to bandage wounds and extract soldiers from the mangled vehicles.
As time goes on, more and more of his memory from that day comes back to him. Upon returning, Chris not only suffered from PTSD but also developed a serious drug addiction.
After his girlfriend gave birth to a baby boy in 2012, Chris decided to leave. For a full year, he sat at the kitchen table of his mom’s house watching movies on his laptop, hoping things could not and would not get worse.
In 2018, Dale Beatty passed away. Chris attended the funeral. He was high and rail thin, and in the weeks that followed he became even more dependent on drugs, which helped him cope.
A friend intervened, taking him to a PTSD program in Texas. After Chris completed the program, his friend brought him to the Fifth Street Shelter in Statesville.
Chris moved almost immediately into the transitional shelter and began volunteering at Purple Heart Homes. His friends at the nonprofit would pick him up each day and bring him back to the shelter each evening. They also took him other places so he could take care of other needs.
After a month, Chris moved into the Veterans Transitional House.
Chris said he tried to quit his job so many times in 2019, but the guys at Purple Heart Homes wouldn’t let him. His workmates would come to his door in the morning and get him out of bed for work.
“People were invested in me standing back up … at the time I didn’t really care if I did.”
Today, Chris is so incredibly thankful for their support and friendship.
He has worked on his credit and budgeting, and now rents a place in Claremont. He has a VA loan in place and is ready to buy his own home.
“Words are really cheap. If you really want to do something, you can do it.”
The Veterans Transitional House provided the stable environment he needed. There was always food, it was warm and dry and it was a good place to set yourself up for success.
“I used to live in the veterans house. Now, I get to help build them!” Chris said.