DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) — Many take the Memorial Day weekend to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice.

It’s a day Rev, Rob Tart, CEO of the Durham Rescue Mission, continues to commemorate. Tart said the rescue mission has planned a day for families to come together.

Tart said it’s also a day that touches many lives — including many of the veterans that the Durham Rescue Mission serves every day.

“Veterans, unfortunately, always play a pretty big percentage of the community… they made great sacrifices to serve in the military and often are never the same,” said Tart.

At one point, veterans made up a third of the shelter’s population, Tart said.

A recent report from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) showed an 11 percent decline in veteran homelessness since 2020. It’s the biggest drop in veteran homelessness in more than five years.

In 2021, HUD estimated more than 680 veterans were homeless in North Carolina.

“We can’t replace family, but we do our best to give them some kind of belonging and a sense of appreciation and stability,” said Tart.

Tart said many homeless veterans face challenges and obstacles including PTSD. He said the nonprofit tries to support them by providing resources and counseling.

Jason Goldsberry, who served in the military, knows what those challenges can look like.

“I’ve seen my share of things that I wouldn’t wish on anybody,” he said. “Men and women, I don’t care where you come from or what you do, when you put on that uniform it’s a whole different life.”

Goldsberry said he became homeless after battling a drug and alcohol addiction. The veteran said he found the rescue mission and has worked to get back on his feet. He has now found employment at N.C. State University.

“When a lot of vets come back from overseas, they’re not the same. Everything changes how you see things, how you see people, your perception, it’s all different and it takes a long time to adjust,” Goldsberry said.

Henry Jones, a veteran who also turned to the Durham Rescue Mission, now works at the shelter’s education department helping others.

“When I came here, I was shocked because I was a victim of the housing market and ended up here. I didn’t know up from down.”

Jones said he comes from a family of veterans including his father who fought in Vietnam and the Korean War. Jones said he never went to war but served in the military where he was stationed in Colorado with the Nuclear, Biological and Chemical (NBC) Battalion.

The veteran said his father is now buried in a cemetery in Maryland with others who also served.

“When you go out there and you walk past these headstones, it really hits home.”

Jones has since found a passion and a sense of stability within the education department at the rescue mission. He said veterans, like himself, not only face challenges like PTSD but also can have difficulty finding a job.

“It’s very difficult because the vast majority of the jobs here do not transfer over in the civilian field,” Jones added. “There’s a hole in there where there’s a lot of money going other places and it should go to helping veterans transfer because they do have unique problems.”

Tart believes improvements within the Veterans Administration have helped reduce the number of homeless veterans but he also said the Durham VA Health Care System tends to bring a lot of homeless people from across the country to their location.

“It’s the Mission’s way of trying to help the fallen, if you will,” Tart said. “We don’t do much but we do what we can to help and our veterans need to be on the top of that list.”