Derrik Von Haden
As Derrik Von Haden seeks donations for fellow veterans, strangers often thank him for his nearly 10 years of military service.
“One lady recently kissed me,” he says. “She was grateful for all we do.”
The former U.S. Army utility helicopter pilot receives a lot more than pride at his job for Veterans Support Organization. He gets a pay check that has helped him from slipping into homelessness.
|They saved me from a bad situation. I truly believe in what they are all about.|
Von Haden arrived at VSO’s office in South Florida at possibility the lowest point in his adult life. His long-time business of installing wooden floors collapsed in a weak economy and he couldn’t find any work to pay his bills.
Just hours away from getting evicted from his apartment, and down to his last $4, he searched through the phone book one last time in a desperate attempt to find a job. He spotted the listing for VSO and called. He was in the office hours later, and to his surprise, he was offered not only a job but also a place to live until he got his finances in order.
The next day, Von Haden stood in VSO uniform, holding a collections basket and getting donations to support VSO’s employment, housing assistance, and veterans donations programs.
“They helped me believe in myself again,” he says. After leaving the Army in 1990, he spent the next 20 years working with his hands, installing floors, repairing cars, fixing damaged pipes, painting houses, and doing many other tough jobs.
He also struggled with alcohol, which he started abusing at an early age. His health further declined after his military service, during which he says his lungs were diseased from working too close to jet fuel and other gases.
Through it all, he managed to maintain a good life until the housing market collapsed in the late 2000s and ruined his business. He says he would have ended up sleeping on the streets if he didn’t get help from VSO.
“VSO helped me dodge a big bullet,” he says. “They saved me from a bad situation. I truly believe in what they are all about.”