For veterans, coming back from war and adjusting to civilian life can be very difficult. Manuel Marrero hopes he can use his own challenges to make it easier for other veterans in Central Florida.
- Military veteran Manuel Marrero served 6 tours in Afghanistan
- Helped found America's Home Foundation, which supports returning troops
- Nonprofit helps vets find jobs, get mental counseling, health treatments
- VISIT: America's Home Foundation website
A U.S. Army veteran, Marrero served six tours of combat in Afghanistan.
“I saw a lot — my brothers die, my drinking buddies die, my associate buddies die,” Marrero said.
Even after he left the battlefield and returned to Central Florida, Marrero continued to see his fellow soldiers die — from suicide. A veteran who was counseling him even took his own life.
“PTSD, pain, alcohol — unfortunately, he didn’t make it,” Marrero said.
Marrero says he had trouble finding help not only for his physical and mental wounds from war. He also had trouble finding a job.
"You served your country, but it’s like you wasted your time,” said Marrero who's based in the Kissimmee area. “And now that you have that stigma of PTSD on you, good luck.”
At one point, he nearly took his own life. But thanks to support from friends and inspiration from his friend’s father — a 92-year-old World War II veteran — he was able to get his life back on track.
Now, he's working to prevent other veterans from facing their problems alone.
“It gave me the courage and motivation to say, 'You know what, we might only start off with a handful of veterans and family members of veterans, but let’s do this,' ” Marrero said.
Marrero, with help from his close friends, started America’s Home Foundation. Through the nonprofit group, he wants to help veterans find jobs, access to medical and mental health treatment, food and temporary housing.
Manuel Marrero (center) hugs Belle Barrios and Bernard Martinez, who helped him found American's Home Foundation, which provides support to troops returning home from deployments. (Jeff Allen, staff)
“We’re focusing on families, getting veterans’ wives and maybe one or two children into micro-apartments,” said Bernard Martinez, a cofounder.
America’s Home Foundation is just taking off. Marrero hopes with government assistance, sponsorships and donations, he’ll be able to soon help many veterans.
“I’d just like to be in a position where I can help everyone, open up the programs that are needed,” Marrero said.
“It’s our responsibility to help, him because we pushed him to a better opportunity, but we didn’t realize how hard it is to come back out to the real world and adjust,” said Belle Barrios, a cofounder.
If you’d like to find out more about America’s Home Foundation or donate, go to its website.