On Thursday’s edition of Hometown Hero, Eyewitness News partnered with Frontier to bring viewers the story of Patrick Hayes.
He is a U.S. Navy veteran who is helping other veterans overcome challenges in their lives.
However, just a few short years ago, it was Hayes who needed help seeing the light.
“It was almost as if I was looking at my life pass me by and I was on the sidelines,” Hayes said.
Hayes was working on an aircraft carrier at the age of 23 years old.
“I supervised the overall picture, if you will, overall radar picture, so everything on our radar was my responsibility,” Hayes said.
It was during that responsibility that tragedy struck. A plane carrying five people went down.
“Those five men died. They had children. Two of their wives were pregnant,” Hayes said. “I tried not to think about it at first, because I was like 'I have work to do, I have other people that are depending on me.' I pushed it away in a corner in my mind and for years, I didn't even remember it.”
Years later, he said he was working another job "and one of the guys that worked for me gave me a call and we started to reminisce, and we started talking about that event and it went from a ‘wow, I remember that' and eventually it took on its own life and it morphed into something that just gripped me in a way that I had never felt before,” Hayes said.
Hayes said he spiraled into a deep depression.
“I ended up losing my job, and I just remember not being able to face the world, so for a long time I just sat in a corner and was frozen in time almost,” he said.
Hayes said he felt like he had nowhere to turn.
“One of the things about the military is they strip us of our identity and then they build us up to be these superheroes and then when we're broken, that superhero persona still follows us, so now I'm too strong or proud to say that I need help,” Hayes said.
Three years ago, a friend of his brought him to the Errerra Community Center.
“Coming here opened the door to say, you know what, I can ask for help,” Hayes said. “I think that was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made, because otherwise, I’d still be in that low place.”
After a year of therapy, he began training to be a peer support specialist, which is the job he currently holds.
He spends his days inspiring others to be the best they can be, and because of what he’s seen, he can connect to veterans in a way others can’t.
He said he wants them to know it is okay to ask for help.
“If you raised your hand, you deserve to give yourself the opportunity to change your life. Go to the VA, ask for help, there's nothing wrong with asking for help, because we laid our lives on the line and that line sometimes takes stuff from us that we can't get back,” Hayes said.
Now, the future for Hayes, who also spends his time as a pastor at the Ebeneezer Gospel Assembly in Bridgeport, is a bright one because of the help he received.
For more information on the Errerra Community Center, click here.
To nominate our next Hometown Hero, click here.
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