BAPTIST — In July, Ernest Myers, a U.S. Army veteran who spent much of his adult life searching for answers to a series of difficult challenges, realized a special goal he had set for himself several years ago when he received his Master of Business Administration degree from American Continental University.
The 54-year-old Myers, who has been associated with the QuadVets program for more than two years, said obtaining an MBA had been a dream for many years and that once he had obtained the help he needed to regain his health and his ambition, he diligently began studying to reach his goal.
He is quick to add that the assistance he received at QuadVets helped enable him to earn his MBA. QuadVets is one of the community enhancing programs associated with the Community Action Partnership housed near the Tangipahoa-Livingston parish line.
Myers, who is now house director at QuadVets, had earlier earned his bachelor’s degree in social science from Ashford University through online courses. He said he found inspiration when he first visited the office of Dane Blankenship, director of QuadVets, and saw Blankenship’s diplomas displayed on the wall.
“Seeing what ‘Doc’ — that’s what I call Mr. Blankenship — had earned academically encouraged me to continue my own drive for advanced collegiate degrees,” Myers said.
For Myers, QuadVets turned out to be the ideal place for him to continue a long journey of rehabilitation from problems that had first surfaced during his active time in the Army. After stints in Veterans Affairs hospitals and clinics in Georgia, Florida and other parts of Louisiana, he found himself at QuadVets several years ago. Myers said he was referred to QuadVets while being treated at the large VA hospital in Pineville.
“When I arrived here in 2016, I learned everything that was wrong with me, and the most important thing that happened was I was finally treated for symptoms of schizophrenia for which I had been diagnosed,” Myers said. “I was given the proper medicine, and now I am a different person. My life has changed. I had heard that QuadVets was one of the best programs in the region, and I now believe that is true. This place has been great for me.”
Once settled at QuadVets, Myers began pursuing his master’s degree. He said that once he entered the program, he devoted about eight hours a day of study to complete the curriculum. He said he derives a great deal of satisfaction in knowing that he has now earned two degrees.
If these are better days for Myers, he doesn’t have to dwell long on the travails that he has faced in getting to this point in his life.
Myers, who grew up in Savannah, Georgia, joined the Air National Guard while in the ROTC program. In 1982, he enlisted in the U.S. Army. After completing basic training, he was assigned as an administrative specialist and served as a postal worker.
He said his problems began while he was on duty in Korea.
“My differences with the Army began when a female soldier confided in me that a superior was demanding sexual favors from her. I took up her cause and reported this matter to my superiors,” he recalled. “They didn’t want to hear anything about it and tried to brush it off. I couldn’t stand for that. … It was wrong, and I wasn’t going to give up that woman’s complaints.
“That whole thing cracked me up, and I fell all the way down. They just tore me down. It was so tough that I lost it. … It seemed like my mind was gone. One thing led to another, and I was court-martialed several times. I was not treated fairly, and things just couldn’t seem to go my way.”
After eight years in the Army, Myers found himself out of uniform in 1990. What followed was a search for answers that could help him recover from post-traumatic stress. For the next several years, Myers sought help at Veterans Affairs hospitals and clinics in different parts of the country. He said he just couldn’t find the help he needed and that he faced constant difficulties trying to adjust to the positive kind of life he wanted to live.
His arrival at QuadVets was the salvation he sought.
“Once I arrived here, everything was so different and so much better. When I finally got the proper medicine at the correct dosage, things were so much better,” Myers said. “If the Army had just diagnosed me properly and given me the medical care I needed years ago, things could have been so much different. Now I am at peace and I can accomplish many of the things I wanted to do with my life.”
Showing off his diploma from Ashford University, he notes that he graduated magna cum laude. He said he accumulated a perfect 4.0 grade-point average while earning his master’s degree.
Myers has seven children from his marriage, which he said “seems like a long time ago.” He maintains close contact with all of his children, “who are spread out all over the country,” and other members of his family.
“Getting my master’s degree means so much to me," he said. “My father has his master’s degree, and now he says that I should get a doctorate. My daughter is so proud of me. … She said that I am inspiring her to advance her own education.”
Myers said he had to pay for his college training because he could not get the financial assistance that is offered through the VA for some programs.
Looking to the future, Myers said for the time being, he is content to remain employed as house manager for QuadVets. He said after a year or so, he will explore finding work in his field of expertise in New Orleans or Baton Rouge.
“Working with other veterans who are being rehabilitated here is rewarding,” he said. “About 30 veterans are getting a new chance to really make something of their lives, and it’s so special working with them. The vets who are here get wonderful advice … such things as dealing with drugs and alcohol, how to manage finances learning life skills, vocational training … all the things needed to find success.
“There’s a 70-30 ratio here — you put in 70 percent of the effort and QuadVets will give you the other 30 percent of what you need to be successful,” Myers observed. “I give a thumbs-up to QuadVets. I know what they have done for me. If I would have been treated right, given the right medical care a long time ago, who knows? I might have my doctorate degree now.”
Despite his travails, Myers said he is not bitter and not angry about the way he was sometimes mistreated over the years.
“Sometimes you have to go through the darkness to see the light. I now give everything to God,” he said. “I decided to stop driving and let Jesus do the driving. I am content with my life since I have given it to God. I am optimistic about the future and what promise it might bring. Things are surely better for me now.”