Marine Corps Veteran Jose Guerrero grew up in Oklahoma. He was born in Tulsa and moved to Roland when he was eleven years old.
After graduating high school in 2005, Mr. Guerrero worked in roofing until 2010. “My mom had several businesses, and one was a roofing company, so I grew up learning how to do that.” He moved to Fort Smith to look for better employment, but when that did not work out, his sister suggested the military. “I joined the Marines in 2011 as a field radio operator out of Camp Pendleton. I served with the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit on a Navy ship doing patrols, humanitarian work, joint training with other nations, and rapid response. I remember we had one rapid response where a couple were lost at sea. The husband was lost, but we were able to save the wife.”
While in the Marine Corps, Mr. Guerrero married. After leaving active duty in 2015, the couple moved back to Oklahoma. Mr. Guerrero started working and also joined the Reserves. His wife began her career as an occupational therapist, and they had their first child. “I had three stepchildren already, but we wanted another. We had stopped trying, but then she unexpectedly got pregnant.”
A second child soon followed, but by then, the couple had begun drifting apart. They separated soon after. “It was a hard time. I was working about sixty hours a week and going to school to get a degree in criminal law. I took an apartment, and she had primary custody of the kids, so she kept the house. Then my company moved, and I got laid off.”
Other losses followed. He had to leave school because of finances. His mom died. And when he did find a job, it wasn’t enough. “I was only making $500 a week. With rent and bills and child support, I was strapped.”
Mr. Guerrero was approached by a friend to deliver a package to another town. He began making the drive every Saturday and was paid well. “I knew what was going on, but I needed the money. And after a while they began giving me extra product and I sold on the side.”
Then in 2019, everything fell apart. He was selling to a woman had he had known for a long time. “We were friends, we even dated some, but it turned out she was setting me up for the drug task force. I got a ticket for expired plates, ignored it, got pulled over and did time in jail for failure to appear. I was being released with time served when a detective shows up with a warrant for delivery. August 16th, 2019, …the date is burned in mind forever.”
“I did four years and I lost everything. I paroled to St. Francis House. Now, I have to build my life from the ground up. I’m working on getting my birth certificate and then with that, I can get my social security card and ID. Then I can begin looking for work and for housing. Eventually, after two years of stable employment and housing, I can apply to get joint custody of my kids again. St. Francis House is a great steppingstone to rebuilding my life. Everyone here and at the VA honestly wants to help.”