I served a little over two years in federal prison for three separate sex offenses. It was due to a long-term addiction I suffered through for about 20 years before I was arrested. I was on active duty with the Air National Guard as an officer and had served close to 30 years in the Air Force, although not all of it was active duty. I threw away a wonderful career and destroyed my family. That was over seven years ago.
I received a lot of help from the Dept of Veterans Affairs in finding a homeless shelter after my incarceration. I lived in the men’s shelter for 8 months until I was on my feet and could afford to move out on my own. While there, I spent almost all of my time at the local jobs center where the staff there got to know me very well. The job center manager approached me one day with an offer as a clerk at a construction company. I gladly accepted the position and started in July of 2015. After 2 ½ years that job was done because the project was complete. Afterwards, I had numerous fantastic job interviews and some wonderful job offers – until they did the background check. Then suddenly I was a pariah – and kicked to the street. Eventually, I contacted the same man I had first met, the former director of the men’s shelter, because he had been after me for at least two years to come work for him. He’s my employer today. It’s a tough job that does not pay much, but it gets me by.
I also became an active board member of Meeting Ground, a local non-profit that caters to the needs of the homeless. In 2016, I was approached by the Executive Director and asked to join the board since they wanted a veteran rep. I served two years of a three-year term and resigned. A year later, I rejoined the board at their invitation and am a member today. Meeting Ground has given me an important purpose and has helped me to become a part of my community.
I went through group therapy sessions every week for 4 ½ years and finally completed that requirement last Fall. I still see my therapist individually once a month but that will eventually come to an end as well. Therapy was incredibly helpful to me and I fully participated.
I’ve also made a point to maintain my individuality and self-worth. For instance, if you were to spot me in town, you would notice that I am always barefoot. Some would say that I shouldn’t allow myself to stand out like that because questions might be raised and then my status might come to light. But I refuse to live my life in fear like that. I hold my head high and am not ashamed of myself as a person. Yes, I am deeply ashamed of the crimes I committed years ago, but those crimes do not define who I am as a person. The board that I am a member of is aware of my status and supports me.
My point is that I am seen as a productive member of the board and I am not judged for the crimes I committed in the past nor for how I choose to live my life today. Much of that comes from my own attitude and the way I carry myself. I am confident and I participate. I do not hide. Both my therapist and my PO know that I am a nudist. I do not hide who I am.
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