Eagle Star housing is "in the business of saving lives," Dennis Mahoney told the dignitaries and residents gathered Tuesday morning for the Liberty Square ribbon-cutting ceremony in Batavia.
Mahoney, a Vietnam veteran with PTSD and traumatic brain injury, said he isn't sure he would have made it without the assistance of Eagle Star.
His path to Liberty Square started with getting admitted to the PTSD program at the VA in Batavia.
"Getting there was a journey that took me decades," Mahoney said. "I was a great Marine but a horrible civilian. I didn't make the transition too well, but I also said the country didn't treat us too good coming home. That's been turned around greatly. Now I'm proud to be a veteran, proud to have served my country and served as well."
Mahoney's rocky journey after the war included a few encounters with law enforcement, he said.
"I was a mess when I came home," he said. "I'm not gonna use that as an excuse. Not all veterans did that. But I got myself together. And I wanted to make a life for myself. And I found that very difficult. I went from a hotel in Upstate New York with the intention of taking my life."
That attempt got him to a veterans hospital in Montrose, then transferred to Bath, and then Batavia.
Treatment in Batavia, he said, "literally saved my life."
But that wasn't the end of the journey.
"I had no idea what I was going to do," Mahoney said. "After I got out of treatment, I was totally lost. Eagle Star housing had something waiting for me (in Pembroke) where I could ground myself and look for a place to live. That was very difficult. I had no history. I had no way of marketing myself. My only talents were what I learned in the Marine Corps, so not very marketable."
Eagle Star's house in Pembroke is meant to be temporary assistance, but Mahoney held on until Liberty Square became available.
Now Mahoney has safety and security and he's also found a purpose in life. He attends City Church, where he volunteers to help people with disabilities get to church and helps with food distribution.
He is grateful he found Batavia, he said.
"It's a great community. I found a life here. I've found things that I was able to do and I can give back to the community."
He credits Eagle Star and Liberty Square with rounding out a long and difficult journey to a better life.
"So many veterans with PTSD aren't making it every day," he said. "This facility, if we could replicate this all over the country, we would help veterans stay alive, not only prosper and find employment, but find a home that's affordable."
Photo by Howard Owens