A Veteran Tribute

On June 27, 2021, CaringWorks lost one of our most beloved clients, Dwayne “Mohawk” Smith. His brave battle with cancer in recent months was a powerful reminder of the indomitable spirit that he displayed in the face of life’s toughest challenges. With courage and a smile, Dwayne fought the good fight and finished as a hero, faithful to the end.

Despite his large stature, Dwayne was a kind, gentle bear of a man who offered a big smile to everyone he met. But he had a special place in his heart for those suffering from addiction––a battle that he had valiantly fought and overcome in his own life.

As a young man, Dwayne served in US Army Rifleman (expert marksman) and Medical Specialist from 1975-1979. He carried the emotional wounds and post-traumatic stress that many of our veterans encounter and eventually succumbed to a struggle with substance abuse and homelessness that lasted for a number of years.

But in 2012, Dwayne made a brave commitment to his 4 children and siblings that he would get clean and stay clean. He began a program at the Tangu treatment center in Atlanta, GA and graduated in December 2012. Dwayne applied to Project Open Arms (now CaringWorks RISE VA), a HUD permanent supportive housing program for vets with substance use disorder, mental health issues, or medical disabilities. His case manager and one of his biggest supporters was Marshall Marrotte,

Shortly after gaining sobriety, Dwayne began attending daily Substance Disorder Treatment meetings at Dekalb Addiction Center and found a sponsor who would remain in that role until Dwayne’s passing.

Just three years later, Dwayne had completely turned his life around. That’s when he decided that he wanted to give back and use his experience with addiction to help others in recovery. He began leading meetings, serving as a sponsor, and studying to become a licensed Peer Support Specialist and Certified Addiction Counselor. By 2016, Dekalb Addiction Center had hired Dwayne to teach addiction classes and operate as a peer support.

Eventually, Dwayne went on to work for Blue Point Healthcare as a Certified Peer Support Specialist/Case Manager, and he remained employed there until his passing. Dwayne was known and loved throughout the recovery community for his compassion and positivity. He leaves behind the enduring legacy of a large network of overcomers who he counseled, befriended, and encouraged. Dwayne was very proud to be a Mason, a thoughtful man learning to work through tough issues.

In addition to his recovery family, Dwayne dearly loved his children, grandchildren, and siblings and enjoyed a close relationship with them all including his fiancé.

Dwayne was a man of God and his faith was very important to him. He attended church regularly where his son was a pastor. Dwayne always gave God credit for helping save him from addiction and giving him a second chance at life. As he once said, “It’s no one but God that has been carrying me through and keeping me positive.”

This past March, Dwayne learned that he had advanced liver cancer. Despite his difficult diagnosis, Dwayne remained positive, happy, and determined, spending as much time as possible in the company of his family.

Today, we honor Dwayne’s life and remember all those he touched with his caring heart and compassionate spirit. Dwayne’s life demonstrated to us all that CaringWorks. And we will continue to honor his legacy by continuing to offer hope and opportunity to those who are struggling.