A World of Difference
Influenced by her father’s combat service during WWII, her brother’s entry into the National Guard in the Vietnam era, and the value of service instilled in her by her mother, Martha “Martie” W. enlisted in the Navy in 1982 at 22 years old. At that time, the military wasn’t a very common—or as welcoming—place for women.
“Of a 1,300 crew, the ratio of women to men was one to 12,” she said. “And that doesn’t mean we had it easy at all on our seagoing ship.”
But that didn’t stop Martha from taking great pride in her service, gaining the respect of the ship’s senior leadership, and excelling. As a Storekeeper E5 (SK2) Staff Member of the Repair Officer, Martha worked to expedite repair parts critically needed for her USS Shenandoah (AD44)’s mission of repairing destroyers both at sea and in port to ensure the destroyers became battle ready.
“I was also the only junior ranking person to speak in repair department meetings statusing the receipt of all repair parts,” she said. “My assignment also included my frequent rapid education, then making effective on-the-spot decisions about possible suitable substitutions followed with my ongoing accountability.”
Martha realized, however, that being a woman in the military at that time posed challenges to other goals she had such as starting a family. So, she honorably discharged from the Navy to begin a new chapter in her life, and she began going by “Martie.”
Martie launched her professional career, married, then had a daughter, and continued completing college courses along the way. But Martie also struggled with her mental health resulting from both childhood and military traumas and abuse. She eventually found herself homeless.
“There was a time I was working full time while living in my car,” she said. “I come from a middle-class family, I have senior-level college courses completed, I was a lifetime honor student, I worked for Lockheed Martin—and yet—I, too, have known homelessness.”
While stably re-housed in Jacksonville, Florida, it became obvious that Martie’s daughter—who lived in metro Atlanta—was in need of her mother. Martie became determined to reunite with her daughter and granddaughter.
“I got a ticket on a greyhound bus with only one suitcase knowing that I had to find a way there.”
Martie made her way to Georgia and sought help through the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). The VA eventually connected her to CaringWorks and she was able to secure a stable place to live.
“CaringWorks makes a difference. It’s a very needed program. If not for CaringWorks, I would definitely be out in the street,” she said.
Having a secure place to live has also afforded Martie and her daughter the opportunity to improve their relationship. After moving back to Georgia, Martie’s daughter was diagnosed with breast cancer and Martie has been able to provide crucial support throughout her daughter’s cancer treatments and recovery. Now, together, they are winning the battle against breast cancer.
“It’s been great for us to work on our relationship and move into a better spot. It’s made a world of difference.”
With her daughter’s health improving, Martie has a hopeful outlook for her own future.
“I’m thrilled because I’ve been able to return back to a feeling of professional standing. I’m an Executive Officer at the American Legion Post 66 in Avondale Estates,” she said. “I’d also love to do some more volunteer work or part-time work. I’d like to become a peer-support specialist to use my mental health journey to help others.”
Built on the single idea that all people—no matter their social or economic standing—should have a chance to improve their quality of life, CaringWorks has served 10,000 clients throughout our 20-year history. Since our inception, we have grown exponentially to become one of Georgia’s leaders in providing permanent supportive housing. We serve hundreds of individuals each year through unique programs and services that are specifically tailored to the needs of those facing chronic homelessness.
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