BROOMFIELD, Colo. -- For the first time, Cory Hixson, a decorated Marine who disappeared from Broomfield, is speaking out about his ordeal.
"I just hope the VA starts listening to their vets,” he said in an interview Thursday with his wife Shala by his side. "It weighs on veterans and the VA. ... That's our last resort where we need help."
Hixson's case sparked focus on the treatment of veterans coming home from wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
"They're just giving you medications that just ain't right because they're not listening," Hixson said.
He said at the time of the incident in March, Veterans Affairs staff had changed some of the many prescriptions he was taking for post-traumatic stress disorder.
“I went into a medicinal psychosis I wasn't even thinking straight,” he said of the night he disappeared with no shoes or coat in 20-degree weather, landing in jail 60 miles away after allegedly stealing a sweater and some food near Erie.
The Weld County District Attorney's Office this week dropped all charges against Hixson, allowing him to do community service instead.
The decorated Marine lost an eye and suffered traumatic brain injury during two combat tours in Iraq, and is still struggling.
"Even when I'm with my family, it's like I'm not even still focused on them and focusing on the things that really matter or focus on the things I fought for," Hixson said.
Marines are sent to the worst combat zones and Hixson’s unit endured the longest firefight of the war.
“We performed, you know, and when we come back here, it's a whole other world," he said.
Hixson's case prompted Congress to put pressure on the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to better care for him and his fellow vets.
"It's hard to talk to some of them because they're having a rougher time than I am," Hixson said.
The family is grateful for the help of Rep. Mike Coffman gave for Hixson and all veterans.
"Not only do they have the physical aspect of their disabilities, but there's an internal disabilities," Shala Hixson said.
The Hixsons met with the regional head of the VA, who promised more help for all of them. And Hixson is about to get a new prosthetic eye.
"I'm still working toward getting better just living my everyday life," he said.
Hixson spent about a month in the hospital after the ordeal. He credits his wife's help but said it’s still an uphill battle.
He said he knows too many veterans who aren’t getting the help they need.