Never Give Up

With an easy smile and dignified manner, Joe Gilkey is a true Southern gentleman. A supply technician with the Army, he served from 1982 through 1988. Joe is a Little Rock native, and after high school, he and his best friend enlisted. After leaving the service, they took jobs with the same company, and both joined the reserves. “We did everything together. The first year in the reserves we even went to the same training exercises in Texas. But the second year, he went to one training, and I went to another. His helicopter went down, and he died.”

“I took it hard,” Joe says. “I couldn’t function. I kept thinking that if I had gone, maybe the helicopter wouldn’t have crashed. I couldn’t stay focused, lost my job. Then I just did what it takes to get by- selling drugs, then taking drugs. I didn’t know anything about Veteran benefits or PTSD. I spent eight and a half years in the penitentiary; my son was born right before I went to prison. His mom wasn’t around, so my sister basically raised him.”

While in prison, Joe learned a lot from other Veterans. He found out about VA benefits and programs and met people who could help. One of those people is now his wife. “She pressured me to get help, to go to programs. I moved to Pine Bluff when I got out, but it seemed like I wasn’t prepared for the downs when they came along. “

After two house break-ins and being robbed at gunpoint, Joe knew he needed to get out of Pine Bluff. He came to Little Rock and was referred to St. Francis House by the Veterans Day Treatment Center. “I believe God puts you in positions to meet the people you need. Here at St. Francis House I met Gary Clemmons. He’s been a great guide.”

Joe has been at St. Francis House since December. He is an insulin dependent diabetic as well as having a variety of other health issues and while at St. Francis House he has been able to get his physical needs met and is currently waiting on his disability claim to come through. Joe also takes great pride in the contributions he can make to the St. Francis House program. He is clean and sober, and even though he has recently faced some difficulties, he’s not giving up. “I feel like I’m at home here. I help with the Vet-to-Vet group, and I’m a Veteran Representative. I also try to show the new folks around. I tell the newbies that you need to have your mind made up on the positive you want to do; this isn’t a place to play, it’s a place where you can better your life.”