Returning Combat Vet Finds
Peace of mind at Piquette Square
To his fellow American soldiers in Afghanistan, Ramone Davis was known respectfully as “Doc.”
“On our missions, I was the closest thing to a doctor that they had, and it was an honor to have that nickname,” says Ramone, 27, who served as an Army medic. “It meant that I was doing a good job and my unit knew they could count on me.”
Ramone is a new tenant at Piquette Square for Veterans. He moved into his apartment in late March. Piquette provides housing and support services to veterans who were homeless.
Ramone served both in Iraq (Operation Iraqi Freedom) and Afghanistan; and was awarded several medals for his exemplary service and good conduct. More than two million American soldiers have served in either or both of these post-9/11 wars. As they return, many are having trouble adjusting and reintegrating into civilian society. Indeed, there is already evidence that the rate of homelessness among these veterans may exceed that of veterans from previous wars. The Department of Veterans Affairs attributes this to the economic downturn (where unemployment remains high) and to the psychological effects of the prolonged warfare and multiple deployments in high-stress combat zones.
“I expect that we will see a steady increase in the number of returning veterans who become homeless, and an increase in the number of such veterans that we will be serving at Piquette Square,” says Paul McNeill, property manager at Piquette.
Ramone left the Army in April 2011 and returned to his hometown of Detroit. Unable to find a job after months of searching, Ramone went to a Salvation Army shelter. He learned about a job-training program run by Southwest Solutions called Detroit GreenWorks Solutions.
With help from Theresa Paruszkiewicz, a caseworker with GreenWorks and our Homeless Veterans’ Reintegration Program (HVRP), Ramone enrolled in the weatherization class taught by WARM Training, one of our GreenWorks partners. Although he was doing well in class, Ramone left the program before he could get a certificate.
“I was feeling bad that I didn’t have money to buy my little daughter a Christmas present, so I took a job as a store clerk just so I could earn something,” says Ramone, whose daughter lives out of state with his ex-wife. “It was probably not the best decision for my future, but I wanted to prove to myself that I was still there for my daughter.”
Theresa encouraged Ramone to seek opportunities and develop skills that would serve his hopes of being self-sufficient. She also told him about Piquette Square and advised him to fill out an application.
“Piquette is awesome,” says Ramone. “I didn’t know that any place like this existed. My life has improved so much by living here and because the staff is so helpful.”
At Piquette, Ramone met David Cohen, our HVRP specialist who maintains an office in the building. David told Ramone that Ford Motor Company was hiring some assembly line workers and was looking, in particular, for veterans to fill those jobs. Ramone filled out the application that David gave him, passed the requisite tests, and started work at the Michigan Assembly Plant (MAP) on April 16. He is making almost $16 an hour.
“It’s an entry level job, but my plan is to work hard and get ahead,” Ramone says. “I also want to go to school and further my medical training. I discovered in the Army how much I like helping others, and I want to continue to do so.”
Ramone joined the military because of his respect for his grandfather, who served in the Air Force and taught Ramone that it was a good experience. Ramone’s grandfather was a formative influence in his life, particularly after his father died in a car accident when Ramone was seven.
After Ramone graduated from Northern High School in Detroit, he went to Eastern Michigan University to study journalism. He left after one semester, however, feeling restless and wanting to experience more of the world.
In February 2003, Ramone joined the Army and subsequently trained in artillery rocket systems. His unit was sent to Iraq in January 2005, and it served in the Tikrit area, considered one of the most dangerous places in the country.
“We were always on edge because of the IEDs [Improvised Explosive Devices],” Ramone says. “Everyday I woke up thinking this could be my last, but we all had so much training that we were determined to do our jobs.”
After a year in Iraq, Ramone came back to the States. He continued his military career and decided to train as a medic. He was sent to Afghanistan in January 2009.
“The combat situation in Afghanistan was different than Iraq, but sill dangerous,” Ramone says. “In Iraq, you were more likely to get blown up. In Afghanistan, you were more likely to get shot.”
Although he was restless to leave Detroit when he was younger, Ramone now feels settled and wants to stay.
“This is my home, and I want to make a difference here, like I did for my unit” Ramone says.