When Marcus Smith’s career with the U.S. Marine Corps. came to a close in 1999, he said he felt lost. His time in the military had defined the previous decade of his life.

“It was tough,” he said. “I didn’t want to separate from the Marine Corps., but I recognized that it was time for me to make a transition.”

Smith joined the U.S. National Guard in 1999 and was deployed to Iraq from 2007-09 until he was forced to return home after sustaining an injury.

When Smith returned to Houston, he received assistance through the Army’s Warrior Transition Unit, which provides support to wounded soldiers who require a minimum of six months of rehabilitative care, therapy or complex medical management.

“That’s how I got involved with the Vet Center,” Smith said. “It was the coolest thing because I didn’t know there were [vet] centers in the community like that.”

Shortly after returning from duty, Smith volunteered at the Vet Center on Post Oak Road in Houston, where he soon found himself employed. Now, Smith serves as a veterans outreach program specialist at the Spring Vet Center located on Cornerstone Village Drive, where he helps veterans returning from active duty acclimate to civilian life.

According to Smith, the Spring Vet Center’s main focus is providing readjustment counseling, which entails assisting veterans with finding jobs and housing upon their return from duty. However, Smith said the center also provides an array of counseling services for veterans dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder, combat trauma and military sexual trauma.

“Our goal is help [veterans] become good, functioning members in society and make that transition [easier] because sometimes it’s hard to turn the military off and turn the civilian back on,” Smith said.

Smith noted counseling services can also be extended to family members or individuals close to the veterans receiving treatment.

“What we need is for them to understand what their veteran has gone through to help them because we can give [veterans] all the good therapy while they’re here, but once they transition back home, it needs to be sustained,” Smith said.

Reflecting on his time spent working at the Spring Vet Center, Smith said he finds comfort in knowing he has been able to make a difference in people’s lives.

"It’s a challenge, but it’s really rewarding to finally see at the end of the road; it is possible to help,” he said.

Spring Vet Center

14300 Cornerstone Village Drive, Ste. 110, Houston