From Hero To Homeless

Homeless person over flags of US and Iraq

For 25-year-old Herold Noel, this winter, like the war, has not been kind, reports CBS News Correspondent Byron Pitts.

When "Iraqi Freedom" began, Private First Class Herold Noel was a soldier in the U.S. Army's 3rd Infantry Division, pounding a path into Baghdad.

"I fought for this country," he said. "I shed blood for this country. I watched friends die."

And like so many, Herold Noel came home a hero, but he wound up homeless.

He started living out of the back of his jeep when most of his clothes and all of his military medals were stolen at a homeless shelter

"If ever I need to go on an interview, I got my tie, my shirt, so I keep it as clean as I can.

"For a job interview?" Pitts asked.


When the war in Vietnam washed up the first wave of veterans in need of shelter -- the Department of Veteran Affairs had no homeless programs at all. While today, they offer services in every state. Still, as many as 275,000 veterans will likely sleep out in the cold tonight.

"Why weren't all the lessons of Vietnam learned this time? So there wouldn't be any homeless veterans?" Pitts wanted to know.

"Most of the veterans that we're seeing have a mental health and a substance abuse problem," said Peter Dougherty of the Department of Veterans Affairs. "Those problems are the underlying factors."

Herold was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Unemployed, married with three kids, he couldn't get a job.

"The physical war is over. The mental war has just begun," he said.

Pitts asked, "The system is better than it was during Vietnam?"

"The system is a whole lot better than it was before," Dougherty said.

"But there's a 'but' there, sounds like," Pitts noted.

"Well, the 'but' is we have to find them."

Filmmaker Dan Lohaus found them on the street and in shelters across the country. Herold Noel was one of them.

Lohaus and Pitts watched a film clip.

"This is a soldier at his breaking point?" asked Pitts.

"This is a solder at rock bottom," the filmmaker said.

"I put applications in. I did all that. They lost my application three f^&@# times!" Noel said.

This time a city housing agency has given him the runaround yet again.

"What are you telling me man? I have three kids out there man! I fought for my country man. My country shouldn't be doing this to me."

"It's terrible to know that he's not the only one crying in his car," Lohaus said.

"This may sound like an insensitive question, but why should anyone care? About Herold? About the others?" Pitts wanted to know.

"These are the folks who are protecting us and we are treating them this way, who is going to sign up? Who is going to do it next time?"

Still, Herold Noel is one of the luckier ones. Just recently an anonymous donor heard Herold's story and is paying his rent for a year. Tonight, one Iraq War veteran is off the street. But somewhere soon, another could well take his place.