From Hollywood to St. John, Missouri, former actor assists struggling military veterans

1:54 AM, Feb 13, 2013   |    comments
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By Art Holliday

ST. LOUIS (KSDK) - "My favorite Hollywood memory would have to be making "Delta Force" with Chuck Norris and Lee Marvin."

Bill Wallace, executive director of U.S. Vets St. Louis was asked to reminisce about his previous life. In 1986, he died on-screen in "Delta Force", sharing an emotional scene with Norris. His numerous movie credits include "Born On The Fourth of July" starring Tom Cruise, and "Troop Beverly Hills" in which he played a cop who gave a CPR lesson to lead actress Shelley Long. While he was acting, Wallace was also an Army reservist who served in Bosnia. Even when he was acting in Hollywood, Wallace knew he eventually wanted to work with veterans.

"I knew I wanted to work with veterans, I knew I wanted to work with my peers and I started working with the VA and shortly after with U.S. Vets," said Wallace. "We don't want our leave our homeless veterans and our at risk veterans behind we don't want them to fall between the cracks. What they all share in common is they are challenged financially and keeping a roof over their heads, or they're at risk of becoming homeless. They join our community and we're able to give them wrap around services, case management, group therapy, attachment to resources, job search and the like."

A 21-unit apartment complex in a cul-de-sac in St. John is one of 12 sites nationwide where homeless veterans receive a place to live, job training, and a variety of resources. For Navy veteran Terri Walker, U.S. Vets is a lifeline. Formerly unemployed, she's now a private chef and caterer.

"U.S. Vets opened up the door to be able to reestablish myself," said Walker. "I hit a hiccup in life."

Post 9/11 veterans are having an especially tough time. In January the unemployment rate for the veterans who fought in Afghanistan and Iraq rose to nearly 11.7 percent, up from 9.9 percent in December. That's according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

22 military veterans and 16 dependants currently live in the apartment complex purchased by U.S. Vets St. Louis with the help of a V.A. loan in 2011. Wallace says his clients are dealing with a variety of challenges including unemployment and mental health issues, like veterans all over the nation.

"Depression, anxiety disorder, but those who've been in combat, they are also sometimes afflicted with PTSD," said Wallace. "Our veterans have sacrificed in many many ways, shapes, and forms for our country. There's so much veterans can bring to communities, there's so much that they can offer, and I think it's important for those of us who work with veterans make sure that nobody's really left behind."


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