Shawn Laurie works to help fellow vets
FLORENCE, S.C. -- Shawn Laurie is working to help his fellow veterans. It’s his mission. It’s meant to help all involved, and he’s been there before.
The Indiana native settled in Florence when his father left the military and moved to the Pee Dee to be next to his mother.
Laurie graduated from Darlington County schools, got married and moved to Florence.
“I was planning on going active duty at the time but had three kids and was kind of older, 23, when I decided to join,” Laurie said. “But me and the ‘ex’ separated, so I thought joining the regular Army wouldn’t have been so great because I had kids. I decided to join the National Guard, because it was home side. I knew I could deploy, but I wanted to stay home side.”
That was in 2004. In 2008-09, he did his first tour of duty in Afghanistan. In 2010-11, he did his second tour and was wounded. After spending time in a transition unit, he retired from the Army National Guard in 2012 with VA benefits. He was 32.
“In 2012, when I finally got out, I had a buddy of mine, was on his fourth deployment,” Laurie said. “He ended up committing suicide. His daughter found him. That tore me up. You survive four wars and come home and take your life.
“I’ve been down the same road. I’ve had to have surgery, going through substance abuse, depression, suicide thoughts myself many times. I’ve always had my wife and kids to pull me through. He lost the battle. He couldn’t make it.”
The last time for him was six months ago when a friend talked Laurie down from hanging himself.
“It’s very therapeutic; it’s definitely helped me a lot,” Laurie said of helping others. “Squared away for last six months. How can you help somebody when you’re a wreck? Finally got myself cleaned up, straight and found purpose again.”
Laurie acts as a veterans’ advocate. He started a group on Facebook that caters to veterans and works out in the field to help veterans in need.
“Homeless, suicide, get them a job — whatever,” he said. “I have all this free time. Thought I should do something with it.”
Laurie has become a member of the Florence Veterans Advisory Council and has approached Pee Dee media outlets with his message to help him get it out to the public.
“It’s more than talking; you have to be proactive,” he said. “You have to get out there. There’s nothing like a veteran helping veterans. We know what we need and what’s out there in the community.
“We’re veterans. We are our brother’s keeper.”
He is working to establish help for veterans in the Pee Dee area regardless of any disability rating and, as part of that, a group that would meet regularly to work through their problems.
“I want to do the right thing,” Laurie said. “I want to help my people. I want to help my veterans. They deserve it.”