ANDERSON — Brent Golish has been everywhere. His list of residences includes Okinawa and is hard to follow past Liberia.
One place on the list is "homeless."
Golish, who now has his own home, is one of 615 veterans who were homeless in Indiana in 2017, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Nearly 70 veterans in need visited Madison County Stand Down at the National Guard Armory on Friday. The event, coordinated by the Madison County Joining Community Forces Stand Down Committee, connects vets with necessities like clothes and toiletries, as well as resources for jobs, education, counseling and government aid.
Golish walked around the the Stand Down tables. He talked to people. He asked for things he needed. While that may seem trivial to some, Emily Quillen said it's a miracle.
Quillen, a case manager for Aspire Indiana, took Golish on as a client 10 months ago. He was homeless with a social phobia so severe he only shopped at night.
"From when I met him to now, it's a total 180," she said. "It's like a different person."
Golish was struggling with untreated mental illnesses and only a few days before Christmas 2017, his fiancee ended their relationship.
"I was sleeping on my dad's floor and it was either stay on this floor and let it break me, or get up and fight," he said. "I decided this wasn't going to break me. I was going to get help."
After a quick search online and a phone call, he connected with Quillen.
"Honestly, I could cry right now," Quillen said. "You take somebody off the street and you do everything you can. Look at him now, look at how far he's come. Look at all you can do."
Aspire is just one of the agencies that comprise the Madison County Joining Community Forces Stand Down Committee. The committee also includes the Madison County Veterans Service Office, Madison County Recorder, St. Vincent Anderson Regional Hospital, Veteran's Association, Indiana National Guard, MSRI, Easter Seals, WorkOne, Job Source, InteCare and Salvation Army.
Planning for the event happens over the course of a year with several meetings. Quillen said all of the preparation and stress is worth it when she sees veterans, like Marty Penu, thriving.
Penu, a Navy veteran, said her life has changed drastically in the last two years. She said the transition from spending nine months at a time on a boat in the 1980s and returning to land was difficult.
"I've been homeless before, in California," she said. "But Indiana, it was totally different. I was homeless in the snow, I'd never even seen snow before."
She moved to Muncie from California for a job which fell through, and wound up at the Muncie YWCA. She called the homeless hotline and was connected with Aspire.
"These people stepped up for me," she said. "It was really good. Now I'm not roughing it so much. I'm hanging in there."
Madison County Sheriff Scott Mellinger volunteered at Stand Down. He was a familiar face to many, including Golish.
"Do you remember me? I was walking down Scatterfield and it was in February. You pulled over and took me home," Golish told the sheriff.
Mellinger, who was handing out toiletries at the Disabled American Veterans table, said he remembered the occasion but not the face.
"They asked me to come speak today and I told them to put me to work instead," he said. "I learned a lot about the plight of veterans. I'm so appreciative of veterans. It makes you grateful."
Golish said he's the one who is grateful for a second chance at life.
"I can actually smile now," Golish said. "I have a reason to smile now."
Follow Laura Arwood on Twitter @lauraarwood or call 648-4284.