Veterans Voices: Moving to Rochester saved his life

Veterans Voices

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Growing up in Washington, D.C., Gary Caldwell says he always wanted to break away, see the US and the world. 

“I also knew that I wanted to be a Marine,” Caldwell, a USMC Veteran said. “Two weeks after graduating high school, I was in Marine Corps boot camp wondering what I had gotten myself into.”

Caldwell became an O341 infantry mortarman. He served from 1982 to 1985 in Hawaii, and did cruises through the Mediterranean. He also traveled through Asia helping to train South Korean soldiers, and down under with Australian forces.  

“Those experiences were great.”

Caldwell left honorably as a Corporal. He ended up in the Bronx, working as a drug abuse case manager for a non-profit until 2017.  

“But I had run into some rough times,” he said. “I had lost my job due to some personal issues, and I didn’t know where to turn.”

Homeless, Caldwell eventually turned to the VA in New York City. “For a long time, because I was this big bad Marine, that I didn’t need help.”

He was assisted for awhile, but when COVID-19 hit, he and other veterans were transported to the Canandaigua VA. While in quarantine, he learned of the Veterans Outreach Center here in Rochester. 

“I would talk to friends and they told me, ‘listen, you should just stay up there, start new, start fresh.'”

Caldwell, just getting a new apartment on Mount Hope. He says this new level of stability essential, thanks to the VOC. Caldwell says this move saved his life, and he’s happy to stay. The air he says is fresher in Rochester anyway. 

“I just feel the difference living up here, and just being up here and connected with the veterans.”

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