• Jeff Kramer

Guest Testimony - Shawn Cole

Shawn Cole faithfully served in the US Navy for 6 years as a MM(n) or Machinist Mate Nuclear. He traveled all over the world on two nuclear powered vessels. One was the guided missile cruiser USS Truxton, the other, aircraft carrier USS Enterprise. To be a Machinist Mate on a nuclear ship requires an extremely high degree of intelligence and ability to work on very specialized equipment with precision attention to detail. Nuclear mechanics go through a rigorous training program consisting of three months at the Nuclear Field "A" School , six months of Naval Nuclear Power Training Command also known as Nuclear Power School, and six months at one of several Nuclear Power Training Units.

Shawn sailed through the Straits of Hormuz just three weeks before the USS Cole was bombed by Al Qaeda terrorist in October of 2000. During his service Shawn has defended our freedom all across the globe, from Africa to Australia and all along the Western US coast from Washington down to San Diego. Shawn’s service concluded with an honorable

discharge and a job well done.

When Shawn left the Navy he went to work for the Palo Verde nuclear power plant in Tonopah Arizona. The Palo Verde Generating Station is the largest power plant in the United States by net generation. Its average electric power production is about 3.3 gigawatts which serves around four million people. Shawn worked successfully at Palo Verde for 15 years and built a comfortable life in Arizona for himself, his wife and their kids. Then something happened that he never saw coming.

Unfortunately, Shawn went through a devastating and unexpected divorce that forced him to lose his house, his money, most all of his possessions and eventually cost him his job. Lost, depressed and not sure where to turn, Shawn called an old friend in Tennessee in the off chance he might have some opportunities for him. His friend opened his home up for Shawn to move in and live while he gets back on his feet. Shawn tried several different jobs in Tennessee searching for the right fit. He worked for the Tennessee Dept. of Transportation, he worked as a Corrections Officer, and he even tried being a plastic injection mold maker at a factory. Nothing seemed to be working.

Around this time Shawn began to have trouble sleeping. He started to notice he was very tired during the day and even falling asleep at times he’d normally be wide awake. Then one night, driving on his way home from work, Shawn fell asleep at the wheel. His vehicle rolled several times and he was badly injured. Shawn was put on life support for 2 weeks and was in the hospital for over a month. All he remembers about the accident was falling asleep, and the next thing he knew, he was leaving a hospital. More than a month of his life was completely erased from his memory. Shawn’s sister who lives in Fenton Michigan came to be at his side while he was in the hospital. When he was released she agreed to let him stay with her for a while as he continued to heal. Shawn stayed with his sisters for 2 months before the landlord said he had to go. A common problem and contributor to homelessness, tenants are not usually able to help friends or family for very long if their name is not on the lease. Once again facing homelessness, Shawn wasn’t sure where to go or what to do. Shawn’s sister began talking to her ex-husband who lives in Sandusky. He told her about the Sanilac Rescue Mission which he felt would be close enough that he could help Shawn find work and housing.

Shawn came to the Rescue Mission on March 14th. Right away he got along well with the guys and was an active participant in the nightly chapels and morning devotions. As time progressed it became obvious that Shawn still needed help establishing healthy sleep patterns. SRM staff went to work connecting Shawn with a local doctor to do a sleep study. He was also connected with the local Veterans Affairs office in order to begin the process of applying for VA benefits, BWCIL for housing assistance, MI Works and DHHS. Shawn looked for housing and employment in the Sandusky area but wasn’t having much luck finding something that fit his highly specialized skill set so SRM invited Shawn to stay at the mission longer than normal while he waits for his VA benefits to process.

On June 21st Shawn had the opportunity to attend the Men’s Encounter weekend, a men’s ministry weekend designed to bring men freedom from their past and true surrender to Jesus Christ. There Shawn accepted Christ as his Lord and Savior and was baptized. Shawn continued to grow in his relationship with the Lord and found himself fitting in well with his new church family at BAM International.

At the beginning of June someone mentioned a new Veterans facility called Fiddlers Green was opening in Bad Axe. SRM staff made an appointment to bring Shawn to see the facility. Fiddler’s Green is a full-service veteran housing community that provides housing, meals, full service case management, transportation and personalized care to our nation’s heroes. Upon arriving, Shawn instantly knew he had found a home. Shawn signed a lease that very day and moved in on June 24th. Shawn became Fiddlers Green’s very first resident.

Looking back Shawn says that “staying at the Sanilac Rescue Mission made me feel safe during a time of uncertainty. Knowing that whatever circumstances I faced, there was always someone there to help make me feel secure. Even though they didn’t know me and didn’t know what I was going through, they loved me anyways. They did not treat me according to my problems but what they saw I could become. I always knew there would be someone there to be my advocate with any problem that would arise. I am now very happy at Fiddlers Green and appreciate all the work SRM did to get me here”

Fiddlers Green has picked up the mantle in helping Shawn get the VA benefits he deserves. Shawn’s new sleep apnea mask has fixed his sleep trouble and he now feels refreshed and energized throughout the day. He now attends the Elkton Missionary Church in Elkton MI, loves to read, watch the deer outside his window and spend time talking with the other veterans at Fiddlers Green.

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