COLUMBIA — The sound of laughter fills a Columbia kitchen every day as food is prepared for veterans.

Behind the smiles, however, are efforts to help struggling veterans.

“We see a lot of compound barriers (that veterans face),” Welcome Home Executive Director Megan Sievers said, “so it’s our job to sift through that, and figure out what these veterans need.” 

Welcome Home is a nonprofit seeking to end Veteran Homelessness by providing services at its shelter. Administrators often see veterans facing other issues like lack of transportation, no employment, substance abuse, mental health struggles, and physical disabilities.

“(I think it stems from) being in combat, seeing traumatic things,” Operations Director Tim Scott said. “Some of it could just be being in the military and being away from home all the time.”

Scott, a Marine and Army National Guard veteran, has always admired the U.S. Military. When he was three years old, he met and fell in love with his real-life hero: his father.

“I was an orphan in Vietnam in 1968,” Scott said, “and he adopted me in 1971.”

Because of his father, a 25-year U.S. Navy veteran, he keeps this type of service close to his heart. 

“I’ve always been very partial to the Vietnam veterans,” Scott said. “My father and I had a special bond.”

Scott joined the Marine Corps, only a year out of high school, in 1988. He left the Marines in the 1990s, physically and mentally wounded.

Scott didn’t know about many of the resources available to veterans, and he was uncomfortable talking about his struggles with mental health.

“Back then, that was a sign of weakness. Especially in the Marine Corps,” Scott said. “If you hurt yourself, you brush it off, you keep moving forward.”