Just one year ago, Cynthia Dias was a homeless veteran struggling in her life after service in Las Vegas. On Tuesday night, she was a special guest of First Lady Michelle Obama at President Barack Obama's final Sate of the Union address.
"It was an outstanding speech," Dias told the Las Vegas Review-Journal.
Dias was reportedly captivated by what the President had to say regarding improvements made to veteran care over the last few years, and the long road still ahead.
Attending the speech wasn't Dias' only objective, however. She and Arnold Stalk, founder of Veterans Village – a non-profit former motel in Las Vegas with more than 120 housing units where, according to Huffington Post, Dias lives and works as a voluntary advocate for homeless veterans – both traveled to the White House to meet with Valerie Jarrett, Obama's senior adviser, and the first lady.
A nurse who served in the Vietnam War and who subsequently suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder, Dias is one of the many veterans who found long-term residences following the Mayor's Challenge, an effort spearheaded by Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden to end veteran homelessness.
Dias and Stalk also met with Julian Castro, secretary of U.S. Housing and Urban Development, to discuss VASH vouchers – a joint program between HUD and the Department of Veterans Affairs. Stalk pointed to Dias as the embodiment of what the program can do to improve the fortunes of the chronically homeless.
"She was great backup for me today," Stalk relayed to the Review-Journal.
Working together, the two veterans advocates relayed the same message to lawmakers – with affordable, stable housing and access to health care, homeless veterans can turn their lives around and do incredible things. For evidence, look no further than Cynthia Dias.