Heroes of Texoma: Program helped homeless veteran get his life back on track

WICHITA FALLS, TX (KAUZ) - Wednesday is not only Flag Day but the U.S. Army's birthday too. This week's Hero of Texoma is an Army veteran who turned his life around.

Thomas Graham went from using drugs and living on the streets to having his home and a job.

Graham said his whole life he was looking for a structure to help shape his life.

He said thanks to help from the Wichita Falls Faith Mission and Military Veterans Peer Network he got the structure he needed to get his boots back on the right path.

"I started off doing drugs and alcohol at a young age," Graham said.

He was born in Dallas, Texas and made his way all over the Lone Star state before ending up in Wichita Falls.

He joined the Army at the age of 17 to give his life structure.

"That worked out for the most part, still had some discipline issues," Graham said.

Those issues led to him leaving the Army before his two-year contract ended and lost his veteran's benefits.

After leaving the armed forces, Graham moved back to Houston to live with his mother.

But in 2008, Hurricane Ike destroyed his home and he began his battle with sobriety again.

"I ended up homeless and went to Atlanta, Georgia for a couple of years," Graham said.

When he returned to Texas, he finally met his father in Plainview.

Graham moved in with him shortly after. The reunion was not as positive as he had hoped.

"He got me back into drinking and smoking weed," Graham said. "When I left there, I have just been putting one foot in front of the other, trying to sober back up."

He moved to Wichita Falls to join Faith Mission. He entered the building in what was described by Faith Mission site director Clay Kahler as 'full blown detox.'

"He showed up here and we immediately transported him to the hospital," Kahler said.

Graham was told about MVPN, a group made up of military veterans, who help veterans overcome their issues.

Graham said interacting with other veteran's who have struggled like he has was really helpful.

He said veterans are the only people who understand what he is dealing with and how to overcome those issues.

"Most of the time, when you talk to folks and you tell them what goes on in the Army, they do not believe you," Graham said.

MVPN helped Graham find a job and Faith Mission allowed Graham to live there until he was able to afford to live on his own.

With the support of the two organizations, Graham is almost one-year sober, has a full-time job and his own apartment.

"I am as proud of Thomas as he was my own kid," Kahler said. "He is my brother in [Jesus] Christ and not only that he is my brother in uniform." Kahler is also an Army veteran.

MVPN and Wichita Falls Faith Mission are planning to put a 30-foot flag pole to honor homeless military veterans in front of the Faith Mission building.

It will have the Texas and U.S. flag.

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