Retired Air Force Colonel With Three Graduate Degrees Is Homeless And Sleeps In A Van

By Michael Snyder

Blue Van - Photo by SuperTank17

What advice would you give to a retired Air Force Colonel that has three graduate degrees and that cannot even find work as a janitor?  59-year-old Robert Freniere once served as a special assistant to General Stanley McChrystal, and he has spent extensive time in both Iraq and Afghanistan.  But now this man who once had an office in the heart of the Pentagon cannot find anyone who will hire him.  In addition to his story, in this article you will also hear about several other middle-aged professionals that cannot find work in this economy either.  Despite what the Obama administration and the mainstream media are telling you, the truth is that there has been no employment recoveryin this country.  What you are about to read is absolutely heartbreaking, but it represents the reality of what is really going on out there in the streets of America today.

A lot of unemployed Americans believe that they cannot find work because they don’t have enough “education” or enough “experience”.  Well, the truth is that there are a whole lot of people out there like Freniere that have lots of both and still can’t even get hired as a janitor

After a 30-year military career in which he earned three graduate degrees, rose to the rank of colonel, and served as an aide to Pentagon brass, Robert Freniere can guess what people might say when they learn he’s unemployed and lives out of his van:

Why doesn’t this guy get a job as a janitor?

Freniere answers his own question: “Well, I’ve tried that.”

Freniere, 59, says that his plea for help, to a janitor he once praised when the man was mopping the floors of his Washington office, went unfulfilled. So have dozens of job applications, he says, the ones he has filled out six hours a day, day after day, on public library computers.

So Freniere, a man who braved multiple combat zones and was hailed as “a leading light” by an admiral, is now fighting a new battle: homelessness.

You can read the rest of that article right here.  This just shows how badly the private sector in the United States is failing.  Someone with Freniere’s education and experience should be able to find work easily if our economy truly was healthy.

And of course Freniere is far from alone.  Just consider the story of 59-year-old Nancy Shields

Earlier last year, the 59-year-old Shields lost her townhouse and now rents a single room in her Southern California town. At one point, she managed a team of 60 people for a large retailer. She lost that job in 2011 but took another one—and a 20 percent pay cut—some months later. When that store closed in 2012, her luck ran out, and she has been looking for work ever since.

“My federal [unemployment] benefits (were) about $1,200 a month, and that’s all I get. … I have been very dependent on the generosity of my family members,” Shields said.

Her retirement savings exhausted, Shields said she doesn’t know what she’ll do if Congress doesn’t eventually authorize an extension.

As I have written about previously, a lot of unemployed Americans are going to lose their last lifeline now that their extended unemployment benefits are being cut off.  In fact, it is being projected that a total of 5 million unemployed Americans will lose their benefits by the end of 2014.  Many of those unemployed workers will end up losing everything.  One example of this is 53-year-old biotech researcher Vera Volk

Massachusetts resident Vera Volk also has a master’s degree, but the 53-year-old biotech researcher lost her job at the end of May and has been selling prized possessions in order to stay afloat.

“We’ve had to cash in everything that we could potentially cash in,” Volk said. “We’ve got our water heater down to the lowest we could potentially tolerate.” Volk’s extended unemployment benefits of $480 a week are the couple’s sole source of income. They’re four months behind on their mortgage, and although she and her husband have chronic health conditions, they couldn’t afford to keep paying for health insurance.

What would you do if you lost your job and couldn’t find another one no matter how hard you tried?

How would you stay afloat?

For 37-year-old Jeremy Botta, it is probably going to come down to selling off his most important possessions…

The pickup truck will probably be the first thing to go.

It’s the first new car that Jeremy Botta has ever bought, using his savings from working for more than 14 years at the same auto repair shop. “I bent over backwards—I worked almost a 100 hours a week on my salary to turn that store around,” said Botta, 37, who was laid off in April after the shop changed owners.

Have you ever worked 100 hours a week?

There are many Americans out there that put in crazy hours month after month and end up with nothing to show for it.

Now Botta is facing the very real possibility that he will have to sell his house just to survive…

“If it comes down to it, I’ll have to sell the house,” says Botta, who bought the place in Bend, Ore., just months before he suddenly lost his job, which netted him as much as $60,000 in a good year. Having already raided his retirement savings, Botta thinks he’ll need to take three or four part-time jobs, working 60 to 70 hours a week just to get by without the unemployment checks.

“I don’t know how people make it on minimum wage,” says Botta. Having applied for nearly 100 jobs without luck—including cashier’s positions at Home Depot and Lowe’s—Botta expects he’ll be pumping gas if he’s lucky.

In a previous article entitled “15 Signs That The Quality Of Jobs In America Is Going Downhill Really Fast“, I detailed how the quality of the jobs in the United States is rapidly deteriorating.

And these days it is not just those with little education that are being forced to work low paying jobs.  In fact, the number of college graduates working minimum wage jobs has doubled since 2007.

In addition, according to a National Employment Law Project study about60 percent of the jobs that have been “created” since the end of the last recession pay $13.83 or less an hour.

But you can’t support a family on that kind of an income.  In millions of homes in America today, both the father and the mother work multiple jobs and there still isn’t enough money at the end of the month.

The middle class is being systematically destroyed and poverty is absolutely soaring.  In some areas of the country, more than 40 percent of the people live below the poverty line.  You can check out an interactive map which shows where the highest levels of poverty in America are right here.  As you can see, the southern half of the nation has been hit particularly hard.

In a desperate attempt to stay afloat, more Americans than ever are turning to emergency loans.  I have written about the payday loan scampreviously, but now a new twist on that scam has emerged.

They are being called “workplace loans”, and companies all over America are beginning to offer them as “benefits” to their workers.  But the effective annual percentage rate on these loans can be as high as 165 percent

Arizona Restaurant Systems Inc., a Scottsdale, Ariz., company that operates 28 Sonic locations in the state, allows workers to take out loans ranging from $150 to $500 that typically last two weeks.

The fees, ranging from $8 to $25 plus interest, don’t go to the restaurant franchisee, but to a lender called Think Finance Inc., which makes the loans. Based on the fees, the loans carry an effective annual percentage rate of 100% to 165%.

Please don’t get trapped in any of those loans.  They simply are not worth it.

Unfortunately, this is just the start of our economic problems.  We are in the midst of a long-term economic decline that will soon greatly accelerate.

And despite relentless propaganda from the mainstream media about how “good” things are, most Americans are very pessimistic about where things are headed.  According to a survey conducted in December by the AP-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, 54 percent of all Americans believe that life in America will “go downhill” as we approach 2050, and only 23 percent believe that life will improve during the next few decades.

Also, Americans seem to have very little faith in the federal government at this point.  According to a shocking new poll that was just released, only one out of every 20 Americans believe that the government is functioning well and needs no changes, and 70 percent of all Americans do not have confidence that the government will “make progress on the important problems and issues facing the country in 2014.”

If you are waiting for our politicians to fix everything and save the day, you can quit holding your breath.  They are way too busy having fun and raising money for their next campaigns.

For example, despite the fact that our country is falling apart all around us, Barack Obama just took an extended holiday vacation out in Hawaii and played his 160th round of golf since taking office.

Our “leaders” are not going to rescue us from what is coming.  That is why it is imperative to get prepared for the coming storm while you still can.

Time is running out.

Blue Van - Photo by SuperTank17


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  • Heywood Jablohmee

    I call BS on this . A retired Colonel with 30 years gets at least about 3000 dollars a month pension ,

    • Netflix Sux

      Just about to post the same thing.

    • robertsgt40

      Yup. I posted above you.

    • Fred

      Does he qualify at 59??? You can’t collect SS at 59 I don’t think..

    • Dave Mende

      As I understand it, military pensions are payable immediately upon retirement. I think it should be at 62/65 as SS. Eye’ll bet this Colonel is living on his Mil pension and complaining because Boeing refuses to hire him. Cry me a river.

  • AKamps

    To all-

    I am writing you about the story I just read about retired AF Colonel Robert Freniere. My colleagues and I were intrigued by the story when we read the headline, and then shocked by the content. The story is so amazing, but it leaves some questions unanswered.

    In the story you mention Freniere retired from the Air Force in 2006 as an 06 after serving for 30 years. For his service he receives a pension of $40k/yr., this info rang alarms instantly. A retired AF O6 would receive much more than just $40k/yr. They would get 75 percent of the regular income, which in 2006 a O6 earned $8841/mo. Simple math of 8841*.75= 6630. He’s making closer to $6630/mo. or just over $79K/yr., which is far more than the $40K mentioned in the story.

    A colleague of mine also did some research and found he doesn’t pay anything towards the mortgage of his prior home he had with his now ex-wife. Which raises the question, how does someone who makes over $79K a year not be able to afford a place to live?

    Also, why does he not go to his local VA and ask for help?

    It bothered me so much that I had to write to you. Now I googled this story and it seems many new outlets have picked this up, but each one has its own writer. Same story. Different writer. Something doesn’t add up.

    As a public affairs specialist with the Milwaukee VA Medical Center I know how important homelessness is in the Veteran community. This story raises more questions about the validity of this man, and not about the real issue of homelessness.


    • Fedup

      @akamps:disqus @robertsgt40:disqus
      I agree 100% with your comments….and was my point to my other response below. There is obviously more details to this story…..just as there are for the rest of the 40 Million+ unemployed or receiving some sort of Gov Assistance. (SNAP, Welfare, etc) It begs the question….how does someone who has 30 years experience, Multiple degrees, Intelligence background, World travel experience, with (who had high level contacts/references) end up like this. With a pension of 8k+ plus a month……obviously it’s not just the economy that has created his woes. If we were to assume he, like most other people made career mistakes/personal mistakes and even maybe retired other than honorable, or may have even lost his retirement benefits…..and maybe he is just simply just a major jerk……..and assuming he is not a felon……..30 years, multiple degrees…..and can’t get a custodial job? Major flags anyway you look at it. 1) Does he need counseling/mental health depression/addiction rehab etc… 2) Is his ex wife grabbing 8K a month in alimony/Maint and child support, thus he can’t pay for the mortgage which he probably assigned to his ex during the divorce. 3) As for the VA……as a USAF vet myself who asked them for help……good luck with that…..

      In closing…my point is simply don’t rush to judgement because everyone has a story…..and just maybe his story is worth a closer look. Hey, if it turns out he is a real prick, cheated/beat on his wife, etc…..then he reaps what he sowed. Or maybe….it’s just Lame Stream Media sensationalism… get web traffic……But we need more details before judgement.

  • robertsgt40

    No sympathy here for the colonel on multiple counts. I’m 10yrs older than him. I “retired” from the Army as an E-3 when I got back from being drafted and sent to Vietnam. Years later I discovered the hoax of war(s). He gets about $25k more than my Social Security. To be in “intelligence” and not to know the scam of the wars he’s help support, is inexcuseable. Live by the sword-die by the sword.

  • Fedup

    I wouldn’t call B.S. so fast. Think 1 Divorce with 4 Kids under the age of Emancipation and or college expenses etc….maybe even has a child living with his X who has large medical bills/debt…..A Nasty X wife used to being a Colonials Wife…..His X get’s $2500 per month in Maint/Child Support and he’s done. He’s in a van. It could be that simple. Maybe he pissed off his x and didn’t/can’t go along with his x corrupt cronies he used to work with……or maybe just trying to start over……$36000 per year doesn’t go far after taxes……Or maybe he has a drinking problem to boot………Lord Knows Many Military Folks get promoted partly because of their drinking habits. Or maybe he’s got a slight chip on his shoulder cause he was screwed by the USAF/Gov…..but still trying to find work……Maybe a little PTSD etc……Or Maybe he lost his wealth to Madoff….. The sad part is…due to the lack of details presented in this article……..You call BS first…..instead of thinking how can I/we help him or others. Even Mother Theresa and Gandhi……are now proving they weren’t perfect either….. The fact of the matter……30 years, multiple degrees and great references don’t even help these days……that’s the story………not his pension. 30 years……$3-4k a month… shit for a pension. If he were a retired Cop, State or Fed employee….it would be almost double and not being forced to relocate every 3-4 years around the globe. With better medical benefits to boot.

  • IrishPotatoGun

    Guess he didn’t kiss the ass of any NWO or MIC scum.

  • Fred

    What he should do is disengage from the system that is crippling him. If you can’t get a job, make one.
    Start consulting, selling value either by bartering or making something of value. The most important thing
    is not to pay any taxes on what you make. Go off grid. If he is a smart guy he won’t need government.
    If he has military experience he has organizational skills and discipline, so use that to make a job.

  • desertspeaks

    yeah sure ok, a retired air force colonel WHO GETS A FAT RETIREMENT CHECK from his years of service, is homeless??
    does he spend his retirement check on crack?

  • desertspeaks

    and for those of you who he old enough to get retirement, the answer IS YES! WHEN YOU RETIRE FROM THE MILITARY, YOU GET RETIREMENT PAY! There may be a lag but it’s not more than 60 days maximum, It usually begins at the NEXT PAY PERIOD! TWO WEEKS!

  • ThePatriotMuckraker

    “peaceful resistance” is oxymoron.

  • fatwillie

    Something stinks here, and at least he seems to have his life, limbs and some other things, that the victims of his wars have not.. How many has he helped kill or injure? how many has he left without a mother or a father? a sister or brother? how many did he help kill or injure that were civilians? The van is another stinky thing made to look like the story needs more life, surely he has some kind of a pension. While I wish no one was homeless, or hungry, I think there are other cases I will give my sympathy to.

  • Heywood Jablohmee

    I was in Europe without a job at one point in 1995. Worked on a USAF base and the employer lost the contract, so I was unemployed and didn’t want to go back to the USA so I started job hunting on the base, Get this, even civil service jobs or a job for the PX (AAFES) had a policy to hire wives of GI’s first, I was Vietnam Vet and was at the bottom of the priority list. Fuck the USA, figured out a way to get EU citizenship and the day I got it, all kinds of high paying jobs opened up to me in Europe with my skills. As for the VA, you have to jump through lots of hoops to get help unless you are 100 percent disabled, and then you have to deal with imbeciles,

  • Carroll Price

    I’ve got some fire wood that needs cutting and splitting. Wonder if he’s interested?

  • Sooriamoorthy

    Maybe that’s what is called immanent justice.

  • Heywood Jablohmee

    A friend of mine is retired E7 and retired at age 38 after 20 years. He gets about 2000 dollars a month, This has been since 1986. An O6 with 30years gets a load more,

  • Toby

    Some of these people must have criticized jewry in some fashion. Once the tribe learns that you refuse to bow at the temple of judenvermin you will pay the ultimate price.

  • xyz


  • againstcorporaterule

    Anyone stupid enough to vote for the “left” fist of corporate rule, a second time around with Obama, using that lame excuse that the “right” fist will be worse, DESERVES EVERYTHING COMING TO THEM!!

    So, how’s your “Romney will be worse” justification working out for you now, eh?

    With all the communication tools at our disposal, we Americans are perfectly capable of electing someone who does not serve the same corporate masters, as Bush/Clinton and Romney/Obama so clearly do! The cage door was open yet, so many lazy, cowardly Americans chose to stay in the corporate-induced cage and piss on the rest of us who prefer decent human beings like Ralph Nader. (Sorry, but Ron Paul is just as much of a shill as Obama! -Wake up BEFORE it’s too late, not AFTER!!)

  • Gary Cooper

    I would suggest that if he want’s to get a job as a janitor, go to school and get a degree in janitorial sciences. It is actually not as easy to get that job at most places as it used to be 50 years ago. And honestly I don’t feel to much for him. He should have a very nice check coming to him every month for his retirement as a Colonel. Unless he is paying maybe 4 or 5 alimony checks each month. Someone with as much intelligence as is required to reach the rank of Colonel should be able to figure out something better than living in a van down by the river.