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What It Takes To Be Really Strong


by Patrick Czwartacki, US Army Airborne ’89-95

Four years ago, I was attending Towson University in MD and I was a pretty successful pre-law student. However, I was also a veteran with untreated PTSD, so I eventually had a “mental break down.” I ended up becoming homeless until I accepted some treatment from the Veterans Hospital and I quit drinking to myself to oblivion. The story of me today is far from usual. I am a college student who struggles with bad time management and suffers with terrible test anxiety. Homework – need I even mention how I feel about this word?

Sometimes, I like to share this about myself with people: “Three and a half years ago, I was in the depths of despair, and I was also a homeless veteran; but today at SPC, I shook hands with a two star general: MG Horst.”

For me to get from the status of a “homeless veteran” to that of a “college student,” I had to do one of the most grueling things that we veterans despise: I had to ask for help. Asking for help should not be a daunting task and I’m not really sure where I ever picked up the thought that it doesn’t hurt enough for me to bother someone or to ask for help. I was incredibly mistaken to ever think that I wasn’t good enough to ask for help from anyone. Trust me when I say this: if you need help in any way, please, please go ask for help.

Once I started to get help, I had to make certain lifestyle changes and promises to those who were helping me. Not only did I have to make those promises to these people who helped rescue me from myself, but I had to do also make promises to myself and hold myself accountable. With a clear mind, clarity happens.

The promises that I had once only dreamed of are now coming true. In less than three short years, and with major help, I was able to turn my life around. What some people see as part of their normal functionality, I now cherish. I have the ability to drive myself to school, attend classes, and not get so upset that I have to leave. I am self-sufficient and very determined to succeed. I wouldn’t be here today if I hadn’t gone to Bay Pines Veterans Hospital for some help. Veterans Services at SPC can also help veteran students in the transition in starting, continuing or resuming their education.

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