Trauma and Perseverance: George’s Story
By Appaswamy “Vino” Pajanor
George grew up in a military family, moving around the world for his entire childhood. His family finally settled in Maryland when his father retired from the Army. George was living on the East Coast during that time, but he ended up moving in with his parents after his divorce and getting full custody of his 3-year-old twin daughters, Sarah, and Micah.
While living with his parents, he was able to devote all his time to his two girls and provide a safe, fulfilling childhood for them. They spent their days with sports, exploring the ocean, and camping trips. George coached the girls’ sports teams and was devoted to their lives and raising them. The girls grew up in a loving home. They both attended college, with Sarah joining the Navy and Micah marrying a military husband.
While Sarah was stationed in San Diego, she wanted to be closer to her father. George lived with Sarah and her husband and was gifted a van by Sarah so he could stay close and have his own space. Sarah checked in with her dad on a regular basis and was always visiting him or having him over for dinner. George was down in Ocean Beach when Sarah tried to visit before a short training deployment on the USS Abraham Lincoln.
While deployed, Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class Sarah F. Burns was one of 5 crew members who died when their MH-60S helicopter crashed during a routine flight from the USS Abraham Lincoln. The helicopter began to shake when landing on the USS Abraham Lincoln; it flipped on its side and slid off the side of the aircraft carrier. The crash took place about 60 miles off the coast of San Diego. George’s son-in-law found him and told him about the accident.
“I had to find things to do to keep my mind off of it,” George said. “I collected cans and all that stuff, you know. Some way to make a buck, you know.”
George was numb following the news of losing his daughter; he went through the motions of burying her at Fort Rosecrans cemetery in Point Loma. While speaking with us, he reflected with warmth on the veteran Harley Davidson club that helped block intersections on their route and attended her funeral. They also gifted him with a dog tag that displays a photo of Sarah and her military information. He wears it every day. George, his daughter Micah, and Sarah’s husband were all gifted a flag in Sarah’s honor. It is his prize possession and something he kept with him in his van. When the van was towed because of no registration or tags, the flag was the only possession George took with him to the streets. He was able to get the flag to a friend for safekeeping while he slept on the streets. The San Diego Homeless Outreach Team (HOT) came to get George when he asked for help and brought him to La Posada. George showed up broken and soaked to the bone, and that is when Catholic Charities stepped in to support him.
Like many of the men staying at La Posada, George lived through a catastrophic event that led to him being living on the streets. He had the support of his family, but with Sarah’s death, his financial support for the van was gone. It took being on the streets for George to admit he needed help.
With a warm shower, clean clothes, and a safe bed to sleep in, George could finally focus on himself. He could grieve Sarah in a safe place and decided that this was not the life he wanted to live. He chose to get help and work with our team to set goals so he can work towards a stable future. George calls Sarah his guardian angel, who looks out for him. He wears the dog tag every day to remind him that Sarah is still with him, proud of him, and watching him work to put his life back together. George has been working with our team for months and continues to accomplish the goals he sets for himself. George is on the right path and working towards being self-sufficient.
“The staff here is very kind, and they are always looking out for everybody. Not just me, but all these other people. They welcome so many people here,” George said.
Every man at La Posada has a complex story that has shaped his life. They are working with our team to change their lives and work to end their cycle of homelessness. With our trauma-informed team, we have the training and skills to help individuals who are ready to work with us toward a different future. With your support, we can continue our mission and help individuals at their most vulnerable times.
“They are a Godsend for homeless people. They helped me out immensely, more than I can imagine. Catholic Charities, they are a Godsend for me, and I can’t thank them enough,” George said.