Pensacola News Journal
June 25, 2017
"If it wasn't for the psychiatrist and the case workers and HUD-VASH, I probably would have fell backwards. They're all proud of me because of where I'm at now compared to how I used to be."Billy Gillard's welcome to Vietnam was a hail of enemy gunfire.
The 18-year-old U.S. Marine Corps infantryman was deployed to Vietnam in 1968, the bloodiest year of the war. When his plane landed, Gillard's first instructions were to grab his duffel bag and sprint for cover. From there, Gillard spent restless nights unsure where or when the next attack would come. He lost brothers in arms suddenly and violently, and still can't shake the memories of the dead and wounded.
He made it home physically whole, but he left some piece of himself in the jungle.
"Now, I have a psychiatrist, and they recognize it's (post traumatic stress disorder)," Gillard, now 68, said. "Back then it was like, 'What do I do now?' ... . There were a lot of battles I was fighting by myself when I got back here."
Gillard turned to drugs to cope. He went through three marriages, more than a decade in prison and 15 years drifting from place to place without a home to call his own. In 2008, he realized he was tired of the way he was living, and this time, there was someone there to help.
Gillard is one of the hundreds of local, formerly homeless veterans who have been able to obtain housing through the HUD-VASH program.
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