REGION — For Anthony White, serving his country did not end when he left the military.
Like many Marines in the area, White first came to Southern California from Florida via Camp Pendleton. It was 2010 at the time, when White was a 20 year old and relatively new father.
White has traced his family’s tradition of serving in the United States military back to the Civil War. That legacy would have likely reached back farther, he said, but his family descends from slaves and it wasn’t until the Civil War that the first generation of freed, former slaves got to fight.
Throughout his youth, White was determined to join the Navy like his father and grandfather before him.
“One of my strongest memories of my father was when we were walking toward the Navy recruiter when he asked if I had ever thought of joining the Marines,” White said.
White and his father went in to check the other military branch out, and White left with his mind set on the Marines. He can’t remember what impressive thing the recruiter said that made him change his mind, but he does remember the influence his father had on him by simply asking if he had considered the Marines.
“I respected him a lot,” White said of his father, who died shortly after White left the Marines.
White served from 2010 to 2014 when he was honorably discharged. He would have re-enlisted, but as a single father he had to choose what was ultimately best for his son. He decided to return to school and get back to work as a civilian.
Though many times were challenging, White said he doesn’t regret his decision to join the Marines or to leave it.
“I realize now that it was an excellent opportunity for me to serve my country, which I think everybody should have the opportunity to do,” he said. “Everyone should contribute toward the greater well-being of the generations after us through civil service.”
That civil service doesn’t necessarily have to be through the military either, and for White, his civil service contributions toward society didn’t stop with his honorable discharge.
Today, White is an advocate for the county’s homeless population. As a student at Palomar College and former student government member, he has pushed for an overnight parking program for homeless students living in their cars.
White himself experienced homelessness as a student right after he was discharged from the Marines. For a period of eight months after he left the military, White lived out of his truck in Oceanside while attending school full-time and working full-time. During that time, he sent his son to live with his mother out of state.
According to White, though there are many services for veterans there is not a centralized plan to help them. He also noted that while services and pay for active duty members are great, veterans are pretty much on their own after they get out.
“Once you’re out of the gate, you stop being the military’s problem,” White said.
It’s also a culture shock for veterans leaving the military, which can cause more issues for them without proper guidance to where resources exist.
White explained that while in the military, members have higher chains of command giving them orders that they know to follow. When those chains of command disappear, it can be hard for veterans to adapt to being on their own.
Many veterans are also too proud to ask for help when they need it.
“I wouldn’t have been in my truck for eight months if I wasn’t too proud to ask for help,” White said.
Today, White isn’t just advocating for homeless veterans but for all homeless people. Though help for veterans is scattered and often hidden, White acknowledges there is plenty of help out there for veterans that homeless people who aren’t veterans don’t qualify for.
For White, helping more than just veterans is continuing the value of serving his country that was instilled into him as a Marine.
“You take an oath to protect the United States and its Constitution, you don’t take an oath to be part of a branch of the military,” White said. “Your service doesn’t end when you get out.”
Samantha Taylor covers Oceanside, Camp Pendleton and the decommissioning San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station. She earned her journalism degree from the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism at Ohio University, and has previously reported for The Athens Messenger in Athens, Ohio, and USA Today in McLean, Virginia. Follow her on Twitter: @samm1son