Charles’ Story: How one local veteran changed his life

Special Reports

BATH, N.Y. (WETM) – Charles Thomas is enjoying life with his wife Ruth at their home in Bath. The two married on Veterans Day 18 years-ago. Thomas loves to sing, cook, but most of all, he loves to make people smile. Yet, life was not always as bright for Charles Thomas. In 1971 on his 19th birthday, Thomas got his draft notice. He was drafted into the U.S. Army.

“Of course my Mom was fearful because Vietnam was still going on. I had orders to go to Vietnam,” Charles said. “But at the last minute, President Nixon changed my orders and sent me to Germany.”

Stationed in Heidelberg, Thomas was part of the military police for the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich. The same games where eight Palestinian terrorists broke into the Olympic Village, killing two members of the Israeli team and taking nine hostages. Those terrorists and the nine hostages were all killed in a battle.

“It was horrible. Vietnam you knew your enemies, terrorists are different,” he said. “They would kill themselves to get to you. I had to check under hoods of vehicles, and things of that nature. We weren’t exactly trained. So, you know, each time you looked at a vehicle, you didn’t know if it was going to be your last time or not.”

In 1973 Thomas returned to his home in Wilmington, Delaware. Something was different and his Mother noticed. Thomas later turned to drugs, becoming addicted. He was homeless for around seven years. His Mother would sneak him food, his father wanting nothing to do with him.

“My mother prayed for me and said that either I get some help or that God would take me out, Thomas said. “I woke up one day and said, I was better than this.”

Thomas found his way to the Bath VA Medical Center. Psychiatrists found that Thomas was Bi-Polar and suffered from Posttraumatic stress disorder, better known as PTSD. It’s a serious condition that can develop after a person has experienced or witnessed a traumatic or terrifying event.

Thomas has been clean for 19 years. He said his PTSD is not as vivid as it has been in years past.

“I still seek help at the VA for PTSD. Because if I don’t, I know I can, have a hard time dealing with it,” Thomas.

Thomas is now focused on helping others. Coming up Friday on 18 News at Eleven. Thomas shares how he’s pushed through the storms of his life to help others who are struggling in our community with addiction and drugs. His story of hope and promise – only on 18 News.

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