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Air Force vet: 'I ended up in wonderland, and my name isn't Alice'

Posted January 24

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— Military families are a big part of North Carolina's community, but after serving their country, many find it difficult to return to civilian life and find work.

Staff Sergeant Michael Palmer went from serving in the United States Air Force to unemployment, homelessness and sleeping out of his car.

"It was like I ended up in wonderland, and my name isn't Alice," he said. "I was wondering where I'm going to live, where I'm going to sleep and what I'm going to eat."

For veterans, finding help is not always easy.

"They are almost turning into forgotten heroes because there is not enough resources for them," said Palmer.

Palmers' luck turned around when he got hooked up with the nonprofit Veteran Residential Services of Wilson.

"They always know that they've got somewhere that they can come and talk to somebody who cares about them," said Claudia Baker, executive director of Veteran Residential Services of Wilson.

The nonprofit provides groceries, clothing, housing and counseling to almost 400 veterans and their families.

Once Palmer found a new home, they furnished it with all the necessities, including a washer, dryer, stove and couch.

"One man's trash is another man's treasure, and when you're starting from scratch again trying to re-establish your life, it's all a treasure to you," Palmer said.

And now, because of their support, Palmer said he no longer feels like a forgotten hero.

It's estimated that veterans make up 20 percent of all homeless people in North Carolina.

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