LAWTON (AP) — A once homeless military veteran is now studying to become a counselor so he can work with other fellow vets.
Pete Slaughter, 51, has lived in Lawton for the past two years.
He is employed as an associate at the Fort Sill Commissary and is a graduate student at Cameron University, where he is working on a master’s degree to ultimately become a licensed professional counselor.
Slaughter served in the U.S. Marine Corps from 1981 to 1985 where he worked with howitzers and was stationed with the 11th and 12th Marines Regiments.
Following his discharge in 1985, Slaughter went to New York where he worked as a teacher’s assistant, but quit and moved back to his hometown of Dayton, Ohio, hoping to find a better job.
He ended up homeless instead.
“I went to the Dayton VA homeless program and stayed there for six months to get on my feet,” he said.
He then attended Central State University in Wilberforce, Ohio, where he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in radio/TV but was unable to find work.
“I have had lots of jobs for sure,” he said. “But those were in fast-food restaurants, janitorial work and at a Delphi plant to make air bags. I also worked at Sears as a tire tech.”
Slaughter faced another setback when he was convicted of possession of unregistered weapons, a felony offense, and served 18 months in a federal prison.
After being released he wound up in Connecticut where he was again homeless, then slept on a friend’s couch, living on his $127 monthly military disability, food stamps and working odd jobs. He later returned to New York state, then back to Dayton.
He was looking for jobs via the Internet when, at USAJob.com?, he found the Fort Sill Commissary job and was hired in November 2010.
He moved to Lawton but lost some of the VA program support he had in Dayton. “I was more interested in working my way out and up, than in receiving a government handout,” he said.
When he moved to Lawton, Slaughter said he had just enough money to get a low-rent apartment — but had to wait before he could have utilities turned on.
Slaughter doesn’t have a car, instead he rides a bicycle to work and class.
“I’m in no rush to buy a car,” he said. “I get out there and see how unsafe some people are driving.”
He said that from his own experience, he finds that homeless veterans feel stigmatized, frustrated, angry, hungry and tired due to their predicament despite the fact they had completed honorable military service.
“Don’t quit and never give up on yourself,” he said. “I might still be in Ohio had I not helped myself.”