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Fort Lauderdale, FL – A generation of MLK inspired advocates are helping veterans like Eric Roberson get the veteran benefits they earned. Twenty nine years after completing his Navy service, Roberson said he is breathing better and now feels like he can live a normal life.

For many, the inspiration to serve the most vulnerable among us is a direct result of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s life and legacy.

Dr. King’s influence goes beyond inspirational. As Roberson’s story and many more like it demonstrate, that inspiration to service is changing lives.

As a result of assistance from a Veterans Service Organization aptly named “Operation Sacred Trust,” Roberson was finally able to celebrate being awarded the veteran benefits he’d earned. 

Navy Veteran Eric Roberson and the Operation Sacred Trust team members who helped talk about the process of getting VA benefits.

“Now I can live a normal life.”

“A weight has been lifted. I feel better. I’m breathing differently. I’m not anxious. I’m at peace,” the Florida veteran said after learning his benefits request had been approved. “Now I can live a normal life.”

Mary Hudson is a longtime activist for seniors, the disabled and disadvantaged in Broward County, Florida. Today, she serves as an Operation Sacred Trust Health Care Navigator. Hudson summed up Dr. King’s legacy with one of his most memorable quotes: “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” 

After 27 years in the Army, signing up to end veteran homelessness

Operation Sacred Trust Veteran Benefits Lead Kevin Williams spent 27 years in the Army before retiring and signing up to help homeless veterans.

“I try to exemplify daily the things Dr. King stood for,” said Williams. “Dr. King exemplified courage for his convictions, stood behind them, and he made sure that others understood his belief,” he said.

For decades, Roberson struggled to overcome challenges that continue to effect the lives of thousands of his fellow veterans who survive on the very edge of life. It wasn’t until Roberson reached Purpose Built Families Foundation’s OST Veterans Service Center in November that the Navy veteran would finally get the opportunity to pursue the potential of his life.

Operation Sacred Trust VBA Benefits Lead Kevin Williams talks about helping fellow veterans rapidly obtain earned benefits.

A commitment to service inspired by MLK

Wiliams worked directly with Roberson to complete and submit his benefits application, work he does with many of the more than 1,000 veterans who receive help from the Florida Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF) program each year.

That commitment to service came from seeds planted early in his life, Williams said.

“My mother would make my brother and me learn about this great leader [Martin Luther King, Jr.] at a very young age,” he said. “It wasn’t until years later that I fully came to understand the true significance of this man, the movement he represented, and what it meant to be a servant leader,” he added.

For Operation Sacred Trust Veteran Health Care Navigator Mary Hudson, Dr. King’s legacy lives in one of his most famous quotes: “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” 

For Kevin Williams and his teammates advocating for homeless and at-risk veterans, Dr. King’s call to action inspires them to go above and beyond for every veteran who reaches the agency’s Miami-Dade or Broward County service centers in the heart of South Florida.

Deeper dive with Navy Veteran Eric Roberson on his effort to obtain veteran benefits.

Changing veteran lives for the rest of their lives

OST Engagement Director Juan Flores said the program is succeeding.

“We’ve been able to get a good amount of our veterans 100% service connected [benefits] that had not been able to get any type of service connection in the past,” Flores said. “You’re talking about going from no income to almost $3,000 a month,” he added.

“That can change anyone’s life for the rest of their lives,” Flores said.

The possibilities are endless

Fellow veteran Angel Evans is Operation Sacred Trust’s Mentoring Lead and Intake Supervisor. As a result of the program’s benefits assistance to homeless and at-risk veterans, he said, “the possibilities are endless now.”

“I can help veterans secure financial income they otherwise wouldn’t have access to,” Evans said.

Servant leadership in action

“Dr. King talked about not being silent in the face of things that matter,” said Purpose Built Families Foundation President/CEO Seth Eisenberg. “An America that keeps it sacred trust to those who have borne the battle and their loved ones matters,” Eisenberg said.

“The one in a hundred applicants who come to work at our Operation Sacred Trust program are the model of servant leadership Dr. King exemplified,” he said.

OST Recruiting and Training Director Bill Spinosa agreed.

“Everybody can be great because anybody can serve,” Spinosa quoted from Dr. King. “You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t need to make your subject and your verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace and a soul generated by love.”

Those hearts and souls are making a difference for many of America’s must vulnerable veterans, some of whom long felt forgotten. Like Roberson, they are finding they are finally able to enjoy the “life, liberty and pursuit of happiness” they sacrificed to secure for all Americans.

Former VA Undersecretary Paul R. Lawrence mentors Operation Sacred Trust veteran advocates in Fort Lauderdale.