September 9 at 9:53pm

Interfaith Helps Navy Veteran Recover Following Knee Replacements

BernardAs home to one of the largest populations of veterans ranging from the Vietnam era to Operation Iraqi Freedom, Interfaith Community Services provides a wide range of specialized services to those living in San Diego County. Through the Recuperative Care Program, Interfaith is able to offer shelter, counseling, and educational services to homeless veterans in North County and lead them on the road to independence and self-sufficiency.

Earlier this month, Interfaith was able to sit down with one of its most recent Recuperative Care graduates, Bernard, to discuss his experiences in the program and journey to self-sufficiency.

A Navy veteran, Bernard served in active duty for seven years as a boiler tech, traveling all over the world. The work was grueling and hard on his body, causing Bernard to join the reserves in 1970; however, after four years, he got the itch to reenlist and did so in 1974.  Unfortunately, not long after his return to active duty, Bernard was medically discharged due to degenerative osteoarthritis in both knees and was told he would eventually need them both replaced.

Returning to civilian life, Bernard earned a degree in Architecture and Business Management from National University and was able to buy his own home.  He started teaching construction quality control and permitting processes at both Southwestern College and San Diego State University and lived a comfortable life until the market crashed in 2008 – causing Bernard to lose him home.

The years following found Bernard renting rooms and living with friends, both in and out of town. “I never signed a lease and was technically homeless,” said Bernard. “I was never in a totally comfortable situation and really had no place to call my own.” By March 2016, Bernard’s knee conditions had become so exacerbated that the VA hospital recommended he have immediate surgery on one knee. Realizing he wouldn’t have a home to recover from surgery in, the VA referred Bernard to Interfaith’s Recuperative Care Program; he moved into the Hawthorne Veteran and Family Resource Center later that month and had his first knee surgery a mere three weeks later.

“I enjoyed that there were other veterans around me while I was in the program,” said Bernard. “It doesn’t matter what service, what age, or anything else – we all have a mutual respect for each other and we all have each others backs.”

Recovering from his first surgery more quickly than originally anticipated, Bernard was able to schedule his second knee surgery for late-June and again, bounced back following intensive physical therapy both at the VA and Hawthorne Center. “I accelerated my recovery,” said Bernard, “but I had a lot of help here, too. It worked out because I wouldn’t have had the capacity to take care of myself following surgery.”

The day we met with Bernard, he was preparing to move into his own one-bedroom apartment in Escondido.  After renting rooms and bouncing around friend’s & family’s homes for so long, this day was especially important to him

“I have my own keys to my own apartment now,” said Bernard.  “Now I can have my daughter and grandson over on my own terms, whenever they want to visit.”

For more information on Interfaith’s Recuperative Care Program and how you can help support our County’s homeless veteran population, please click here.