Ralph Thatch, a Veteran, housed at St. Francis House under the Homeless Veterans Act, served his country from 2003-2005. He served in Iraq as a Human Resource Specialist. “I joined at 17. Truthfully, I had been expelled from high school for buying weed and lost all my scholarships. It was wartime; we were mortared every day; a lot of my job was casualty reporting. I wish I could blame my problems on the military, but I can’t. I was the worst soldier ever.”
Eventually, his Sargeant, “Top,” gave him an ultimatum. “He just asked, ‘Do you want in or out? When I told him I wanted in but would need some help, he moved me in with him for a month. I went from the worst soldier to the best soldier and won Soldier of the year fr the 1st Cavalry division.”
Even so, Mr. Thatch continued to get into trouble. He had a temper, and it got him a summary court-martial. He was diagnosed with Bipolar disorder but didn’t always stay on his medications. Eventually, he sustained a neck injury and couldn’t continue his duties. “It was one more thing I failed at, even though I really tried. So I tried to commit suicide by taking all my meds at once. I couldn’t even do that right. I tried again a week later. That got me a discharge.”
An Arkansas native, Mr. Thatch, came home to Batesville. He got a job, got engaged, but when the engagement broke off; he spiraled downward once more. “I couldn’t make it in the Army, couldn’t make it in a relationship. It didn’t matter. I began drinking and using heavily.”
The pattern remained the same for many years. When he was manic, he was paranoid and even violent. When he was depressed, he became suicidal. Relationships came and went. Jobs, both legal and illegal, came and went. He alienated his family. But it seemed at every turn; there was a “Top.” One of the police or sheriff’s department or paramedics was military. “They always tried to do what they could to help me. Veterans never leave a brother or sister behind. “
During this time, he found out he had a child. “I went to 2L, Sober Living, to make it right for the child. We got back together and had another child. We split again, and I relapsed. I decided that was not what I wanted. “Sasha had left with the kids, and I was at a new low. I was paranoid, scared to go to the hospital, violent. I basically tried “suicide by cop” and ended up in jail. But again, there was always a vet who helped in some way, sometimes just by calling me down and keeping me from being even crazier. I was paroled in June 2020, but my original parole plans were not approved. I was accepted for St. Francis House, and those plans were approved in October. I’ve got about a year clean now.”
“I really want to reconnect with my kids, so that means I have to get a job and a place to live. Even before that, I have to get all my IDs, stay on my meds, do my mental health counseling. “But it feels good. I’ve reached out to several friends, which was hard, but they’re all just glad I’m alive.”
“Veterans are truly brothers and sisters for life. There are so many Vets who need help, and there are plenty of Vets that will help you even if they don’t know you. I’m grateful for the Vets in the police departments, security guards, probation officers who helped me. It extends after service, and I might not be here if it didn’t.