A Vietnam veteran's comeback story after overcoming life of drugs and crime

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- A local veteran who has overcome a life of drugs and crime is sharing his story, hoping it will help other veterans who might be going down that same dark path.

Charles Miles has one incredible comeback story and it includes a big lesson about the impact a simple "Thank you" can have.

Miles was just 19 years old when he was drafted to fight in Vietnam. He was young and full of American pride.

"All of a sudden. We received fire. We had gone into a village and came out," Miles said.

Miles dodged the bullets but his friend, William Alexander, did not make it.

"William was hit right through his chest or the heart. And he just said 'I'm hit.' His eyes were bucked," Miles said.

Miles was chosen to escort Alexander's body home and when he did, something happened that would change the course of his young life.

"It was ugly. It was very ugly," Miles said. "I remember a guy in the airport, big burly guy. He didn't spit on me, but he spit on the ground. I was really bothered by it. Really, really hurt."

All these years, and it still stings.

Miles went back to Vietnam and was injured in combat. He was sent home and honored with a purple heart and a number of other medals. But inside that little boy from Alabama, he felt broken.

"Finally my mind begin to take a turn which was for the worse."

Miles found comfort in drugs like heroin and eventually cocaine. To pay for his addiction, he committed crimes and found himself in jail.

He lost his family and when he got out, he was sleeping on the curb in front of Star of Hope, still abusing drugs.

Miles said he remembers a man at the shelter, day after day, who didn't give up on him.

"He said you can turn this around," Miles said.

"We helped him realize what had happened to him and then we gave him that word hope. Hope turned into a future," Star of Hope said.

It was a future and purpose that Miles would fulfill.

He graduated college, became a pastor and found love again.

He is now the head of the largest veterans vocational program in the country at DeBakey VA Medical Center.

"I'm going to turn over every rock possible to get them hired," Miles said.

Miles has placed hundreds of veterans into the workforce, giving them another chance and hope this Memorial Day.

Miles is encouraging others to just say a simple "Thank you" to a veteran.

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