Connecting veterans in a community of support and service

A former petty officer third class in the U.S. Navy, Frank Dorazio has experienced firsthand the challenges that veterans sometimes face.

“I was a homeless vet for four years,” he says. “I was in a very, very dark, dark place.”

Dorazio, a Portland resident, credits God with helping him to get his life back on track, and he believes he is now being called to help fellow veterans in need of similar strength and support.

“Every hour, a veteran commits suicide because of a lack of faith, lack of hope, PTSD. Salvation is waiting for them, but they just need to be touched. They just need that shoulder. Some of them have big problems like drugs or alcohol and are just so lost out there and so alone. I know what that is like, and I would like to give others the opportunity that was given to me,” he says.

With the support of the Portland Peninsula & Island Parishes, Dorazio is working to establish a new group, the Catholic Veterans of Maine.

“It’s a little scary. I have never done anything like this, but I know God won’t set me up to fail, so I’m going to go with it,” he says.

He sees the group as having multiple benefits. He wants to be able to advocate for veterans and assist them in accessing the benefits and services to which they are entitled.

He wants to create a welcoming and supportive environment where veterans can network, share their experiences, and ask questions.

“Veterans often share a unique bond with each other, and joining a group like the Catholic Veterans of Maine can provide a sense of camaraderie and support that can be difficult to find elsewhere,” he says.

Because the group will be faith-based, he wants to be able to offer spiritual counseling and guidance.

“Many veterans find comfort and strength in their faith, and the Catholic Veterans of Maine group can provide a supportive environment where veterans can explore their faith and connect with other Catholic veterans,” he says.

And he wants to provide opportunities for veterans to serve their communities and the Diocese of Portland. 

“A lot of veterans are dealing with physical and mental disabilities. They feel displaced, but they still want to be of service to their country because once a veteran, always a veteran. You’re that same person who dedicated his life to defending the Constitution under God, and you want to be of service. You’re always the same person inside your heart,” he says.

Dorazio says it has been the opportunity to serve the Church that has invigorated his own faith life. He has been working to restore the brass work in the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception and chapel.

“One day, I was sitting at Mass, and I was looking at the tabernacle, and it needed some TLC,” he says. “Something inside of me was saying, ‘You know what to do here, so get to work.’ So, I asked Father Seamus [Griesbach], and that started my involvement in the parish.”

After receiving some guidance from a fellow parishioner, Barbara Carr, Dorazio got to work. He now spends two or three hours a day, three or four days each week, polishing brass items, which have included tabernacles, a crucifix, candlesticks, alpha and omega symbols, and a gate. The work is hard, but Dorazio says the rewards have been immeasurable.

“I felt God was talking to me about restoring brass, but he was actually talking to me about restoring my soul because everything from that point has just been a wonderful gift. For these last three years, it has been more love than I could ever think that I could get or even deserve,” he says.

It’s quite a change from where Dorazio found himself about 15 years ago. After his brother, who he describes as his best friend, died, Dorazio says he fell into a deep depression and started using drugs. He says he drifted from place to place for a time but eventually went back to work, only to be involved in a motor vehicle accident a year later, which left him with two broken legs, an addiction to pain medication, and no place to live.

“I was aimless, and I was on a lot of drugs,” he says. “That was a nightmare. I lost touch with God. I lost touch with everybody I knew.”

When his second brother became seriously ill, he went to be by his bedside at the hospital and was able to rent a room at the YMCA. Unfortunately, he says he went through what little money he had, and after his brother died, he found himself facing eviction and the prospect of again being homeless. He says that is when he turned to God.

“I will never forget that moment. I started praying, and I asked the Father, I said, ‘Lord, if you can prevent me from being homeless again, because I can’t do that anymore, I will turn my life over to you.’ And that worked until today. I have never been homeless again,” he says.

Dorazio went through a Mercy Hospital rehabilitation program and then a 30-day drug treatment program at the Togus VA Medical Center. He says he relied on his faith to help him through it.

“If you lean on Him, He will pull you out of everything, and I am a witness to that,” he says. “I turned my life over to God. My life belongs to Him.”

It is why he gets on his hands and knees to polish brass, why he started his own ministry of delivering coffee and sandwiches to the homeless he sees in Portland’s Deering Oaks Park, and why he is working to establish the Catholic Veterans of Maine.

“I don’t feel worthy of it,” he says. “When you start getting involved in the Church and you see all the smart, intelligent people who are around you, and then I think about where I came from, I say, ‘Wouldn’t they be better off doing it than me?’ Because they can speak better. They have a home with computers where they can do all the work. I have my little apartment and my clothes on my back. I don’t even have a car, so I don’t know, but I’m going to do it because it’s for His glory, and I owe Him. I owe Him. And if He will take me, I’ll do it.”

Dorazio hopes other veterans with different experiences and backgrounds will step forward to help.

“I think about some of the veterans, some that I’ve met here who have been officers, and I hope they will join the group and add to what I can give,” he says. “My biggest wish is to just grow this group.”

Although initially the group will be based at the cathedral, Dorazio hopes to make it a statewide effort. He envisions meetings will be held in person as well as through Zoom to allow as many veterans as possible to participate, including those with disabilities.

For more information:

If you are interested in learning more about the Catholic Veterans of Maine, you can fill out a form online at or contact the Portland Peninsula & Island Parishes at 207.773.7746 or [email protected].