Homeless Navy veteran gets help to stay afloat

Sergio Benavides served in the US Navy for 5 years keeping everyone on his submarine well fed as the culinary specialist.

"On top of that, I was on a submarine so I was multitasking. I have experience in repairing, welding, chipping, everything," said Benavides.

When he finished his time under water and came back to his civilian life with a wife and baby on the way, he couldn't find a job.

"Basically, all the hardships I went through to do my mission and then I come back and I don't get benefits. No recognition for my blood and sweat, what's going on here?"

Sergio was in the position many veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan have been in since coming home from duty and the Navy shipmate eventually found himself drowning in a sea of debt and lost his house.

"I went into foreclosure and had nowhere else to stay. I was homeless."

Sergio packed up what he and his family had left and moved to Mexico with his in-laws.

"I ended up in Matamoros with my wife and baby and it's horrible over there."

When hope was nearly lost in walked Hector Garza with the Texas Veterans Leadership Program under Work In Texas.

"The program helps veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan ease back into civilian life," said Garza.

He sees firsthand the difficulties they have in landing that job and knows exactly how it feels to have put your life on the line for your country and not be given an opportunity to earn money when the mission is complete.

"I was in the military for 12 years and even with a degree, it took me a year to find a job. We put our lives on the line for this country, we're not asking for special treatment, just some consideration," said Garza.

He helped Sergio with his resume and lined him up for interviews until he finally caught a break at a local hospital, plus he went back to active duty as a Navy reserve to earn a second paycheck.

"I'm living in an apartment now thanks to Section 8," said Sergio. "Hector helped me learn about all the programs available to veterans and they are good programs."

Sergio is a full time student at UTB now shooting for a chemistry degree with a goal of becoming an engineer.

A life that was nearly torpedoed by tragedy is now pushing toward the surface. Sergio's housing assistance is only temporary and he is currently receiving money from the GI bill as long as he stays in school.

Hector Garza says a big misconception among employers who don't hire veterans is that they may suffer from PTSD and he's working to change that by visiting with employers throughout the valley.

He's currently working to place 200 veterans like Sergio in jobs right now.

Find more information on the Texas Veterans Leadership Program click here.