Miraculous Moment: Veteran overcomes homelessness and depression to graduate college

Miraculous Moment: Veteran overcomes homelessness and depression to graduate college

BALTIMORE, Md. (WBFF) -- A 62-year-old veteran who was once homeless and tormented by undiagnosed mental illness is celebrating on the eve of a miraculous milestone. His name is John Carey Jr. He grew up in public housing in east Baltimore after graduating from Frederick Douglass High School in west Baltimore and now he’s sharing the story of his dedicated and difficult journey that’s taken him to Towson University.

Carey is a man who knows what tough times feel like. For two years, he lived in a car.

"You find a place that's safe and secure, maybe in a park, maybe a church parking lot," said Carey. "You get a blanket and you get a pillow and you lay in the back seat and you go to sleep," he said.

That was the dim life on the streets in the late 1970’s for Carey, after serving in the Navy as a traffic controller aboard an aircraft carrier. Twelve years later he left with an honorable discharge and a mental illness.

“They diagnosed me with severe manic depression and agoraphobia, which is the fear to be in public places," said Carey.

But despite all that, Carey’s dream never died.

"I always wanted to graduate from college. I always knew I was going to graduate from college. I didn't know how or when, but I wanted to graduate from college,” said Carey.

With help from the Department of Veterans Affairs and the GI Bill, Carey, Thursday, December 21, will graduate from Towson University with a B.S. degree in psychology.

Carey attended the university’s satellite campus, known as Towson University in Northeastern Maryland (TUNE) in Bel Air where he lives. Carey is a 62-year-old man who was in class with students that could have been his grandchildren.

"Most of the kids, they called me Mr. Carey or Mr. John," said Carey.

Mark Chachich, Ph.D., who directs TUNE’s psychology deparment, is one of Carey’s staunch supporters.

"Oh, he's one of the few guys I can really geek out with," said Chachich. "With everything's he's done, he's never lost sight of being a good person as the most important thing,” he added.

In fact, Carey sums up his story best: "Perseverance is what the game was all about for me. I persevered and no matter what the situation is, I'm going to keep going," said Carey.

Carey has now set his sights on graduate school. He wants a master’s degree in social work from the University of Maryland Baltimore. “I want to help homeless vets because I was one,” said Carey. “I want to give back, help, like someone helped me,” he said.

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