In 1973, Johnnie McGee graduated from high school in New Jersey and joined the Air Force, eager to see life outside of his small town. He diligently served our country in the Vietnam War, and spent time on duty in Montana upon his return to the United States. After sustaining an injury while active on duty, Johnnie decided to move to Mississippi, where his family lived.

Life was different in Mississippi. Johnnie kept himself occupied working in business management but started to notice that he was slowing down and his health was declining. He visited the local Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) in search of resources and services, hoping to find an answer to his ailments. What Jonnie learned astounded him: he had been exposed to Agent Orange, a harmful pesticide, during his time in Vietnam. The issues he was having with his kidneys, onset on diabetes, heart arrhythmias, and COPD could all be tied back to his military service. He was persistent in seeking treatment and support and wanted to learn more about how this would affect his health long-term. His questions went unanswered, and his health issues persisted. He knew it was time for a change.

Johnnie moved to Glendale, Arizona in 2017 in hopes that it would alleviate some of his health issues. Upon arrival, he struggled with finding an affordable place to live while on a fixed income.

“Receiving Social Security and Disability compensation was barely enough for me to feed myself, keep up with medical bills, and pay rent,” he shared.

He was able to find a studio apartment that the landlord leased to him for $500 per month. While he was relieved that he had found a place to live, Johnnie’s landlord was not consistent in maintaining the property. The air conditioning was inconsistent, and plumbing leaks lead to water damage and mold; these things had a negative impact on Johnnie’s health. This was Johnnie’s home for the next two years; sleeping on a pull-out couch with his belongings scattered around him.

In June, Johnnie officially moved into UMOM’s newest affordable housing community; South 7th Village. He’s the first person to live in this new one-bedroom apartment. Thanks to the gracious support of the Carlisle Foundation, Johnnie also received new furniture and houseware items. It’s a priority to support the most vulnerable individuals in our community, especially those who have dedicated their lives to serving our country.

Johnnie shared, “I feel blessed beyond belief. This is the life that I have been waiting to live for so many years. Thank you for your kindness and compassion in helping me get here.”

Now, Johnnie has a safe and comfortable place to rest and recover as he continues working with the VA to maintain his healthcare plan. Knowing that it can be a challenge to find the right help, Johnnie is passionate about sharing supportive resources to others in the community who may need it.