James Merritt grew up poor in the rural south dreaming of playing in the NBA and buying his mother a home. Those hopes ended in 1968 when he was drafted to serve in Vietnam. His time in combat, which included the loss of several friends, had a profound effect. Back then no one spoke of "invisible wounds" or PTSD. James's experience led him to some dark years where drugs, alcohol, and imprisonment dominated his life. Years later he would lean heavily on his faith to turn his life around and again find a way to serve.
James now works in the PTSD ward at the Veterans Health Center in Denver. He has spent years counseling and supporting other veterans and an award has been created in his name for those veterans who show extreme progress in their healing and in supporting their fellow vets.
After years of helping others, James and his wife Bernita were able to enjoy a vacation on three Hawaiian islands: Kauai, Maui and Oahu.
Read The Garden Island's coverage of the Merritts' arrival to Kauai: